Pritzker Halts Indoor Bar And Restaurant Service As Coronavirus Rates Soar In Metro East
Updated Sept. 1 with new restrictions
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is placing an additional restriction on Metro East bars and restaurants to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the region.
Starting Wednesday, all indoor service is banned. The rest of the restrictions the governor placed on the region two weeks ago are still in place.
Bars and restaurants must close by 11 p.m., place tables six feet apart and require reservations for groups.
Pritzker and state public health officials had planned to institute the new ban on indoor dining last week but balked after receiving pressure from local lawmakers and mayors.
The governor admitted he made a mistake by not instituting tougher restrictions earlier in the Metro East, which has the highest seven-day average coronavirus positivity rate of any region in the state at 9.6%.
The state automatically intervenes in a region that has an average positivity rate above 8% for three consecutive days.
These new restrictions will last for at least two weeks, before the state re-evaluates whether they should continue.
Original story from Aug. 17:
EAST ST. LOUIS — Local elected leaders joined Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday to urge Metro East residents to follow public health guidance one day after the state announced new health restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the region.
“People, you need to wake up. You need to step up. You need to do better,” said East Side Health District Administrator Elizabeth Patton-Whiteside. “We have laid the plan for you to follow. Preventing or stopping the virus starts with you or it ends with the undertaker. It’s your choice.”
The changes take effect Tuesday and mandate that bars, restaurants and casinos close by 11 p.m., limit indoor seating to six people per table, place tables six feet apart and require reservations for groups at bars and restaurants.
Over the weekend, the Metro East hit a third consecutive day with the seven-day coronavirus positivity rate above 8%, triggering the new restrictions and a visit to the Metro East by Pritzker.
“No matter which side of this border that you call home, your community is facing concerning trends in positivity rates,” Pritzker said at a press conference in East St. Louis, “rates that we aren’t seeing in the other areas of Illinois.”
Missouri has reported positivity rates of 11% in recent weeks.
Many of the new restrictions for the Metro East mirror what has already been put in place in St. Louis, Pritzker said.
“We’re trying to have effective mitigations in place and that we don’t undermine them by forgetting that just across the river is a city, a state that has a different set of mitigation strategies overall,” he said.
The state didn’t want to place harsh restrictions on businesses, only to have Metro East residents travel to Missouri where they might be looser, Pritkzer said. He added that the state needs Metro East residents to take the threat from the virus seriously.
“Our goals to save lives, to reduce the spread of the virus, to keep the economy moving forward, far outweigh any personal inconvenience,” Pritzker said. “This is about preserving the people and the places we love.”
Other elected leaders and health officials were more blunt in their pleas to the community.
Patton-Whiteside said she and other officials have explained countless times how people can protect themselves with handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing.
“It’s really up to the community members to do it,” said state Sen. Chris Belt, D-Cahokia. “If we don’t have the buy-in, we won’t get there.”
Belt called for Metro East residents to put aside their feelings about whether wearing a mask is the right thing to do.
“People are dying as we speak,” he said. “People are getting infected and sick at an alarming rate.”
The new business restrictions in the Metro East include:
- Removing barstools to prevent ordering, seating and congregating at bars.
- Limiting meetings or social gatherings to the lesser of 25 people or 25% of overall room capacity.
- Requiring all bar and restaurant customers to be seated at tables inside and outside.
- Prohibiting standing or congregating indoors or outdoors at bars and restaurants while waiting for a table or exiting.
- Barring dancing or standing indoors.
- Closing all reception halls.
- Closing all party buses.
The guidelines apply to St. Clair, Madison, Bond, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties.
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program: Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid