SPRINGFIELD — State officials on Tuesday announced additional efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Metro East area along the Missouri border as the first wave of restrictions yielded no effect on the region’s virus positivity rate.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported a 7-day rolling test positivity average of 9.6% in Region 4, which includes the Metro East area, as of Saturday. Officials previously said mitigation strategies would be implemented in regions experiencing a positivity rate of at least 8% for three consecutive days.
Residents in the Metro East area, as of Wednesday, will be unable to consume food or alcohol inside a restaurant or bar. All such establishments must close at 11 p.m. daily and reopen after 6 a.m., and residents are prohibited from congregating indoors for any reason.
Social gatherings will be limited to the lesser of 25 guests or one quarter of a room’s capacity. Party buses will be banned from operating and visitation to long-term care facilities will continue to be forbidden.
State Rep. Nathan Reitz, D-Steeleville, expressed frustration about the governor’s regulations.
“These proposed rules add to the burden of businesses that have already felt the brunt of this pandemic and adds to the economic toll it has taken on Southern Illinois employers and employees," Reitz said in an emailed statement. "We all want residents to be safe and healthy, but it must also be done in a way that does not create additional burdens on those facing difficult financial situations. Many employers that have already made long-term investments and are now left in an even more strained position, and when we look at growing case numbers, many of these are in closed state facilities where community spread is highly unlikely.
"Our local economy has already suffered enough, and I stand with our businesses and workers in continuing to get people back to work in a safe way so our economy can continue to recover.”
The initial restrictions took effect two weeks ago, but the virus positivity has only increased since they were implemented. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has called it a “mistake” that he did not implement the stricter bar and restaurant restrictions earlier.
According to a news release, public health officials will monitor the region’s positivity rate. If that rate drops to 6.5% or lower over the next two weeks, residents can observe the state’s Phase 4 guidance. If the positivity rate increases or remains stagnant over the same time period, officials will consider “more stringent mitigations.”
“IDPH has been working closely with local health departments in the Metro East to provide education to the public and offer information to businesses and organizations on safer ways to reopen,” according to the announcement. “... The significance of face coverings, social distancing, and hand washing have been continuously emphasized by the administration throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The new mitigations are on par with those imposed for Region 7 last week, which includes Will and Kankakee Counties.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.