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Health, Science, Environment

Metro East Coronavirus Restrictions Eased For Theaters, Casinos, Gyms And Offices

St. Louis-area businesses remain closed as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Weeks of reduced income, or none at all, has stretched small businesses thin.
Nat Thomas
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St. Louis Public Radio
Illinois public health Region 4, which includes the Metro East, was allowed to lift some restrictions on Friday.

Updated Jan. 22 with new state health department regulations

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Friday it is rolling back some coronavirus-related restrictions in the region that includes the Metro East.

The area is the last of Illinois’ 11 public health regions to see holiday-related limitations from last November relaxed.

Movie theaters, casinos, fitness centers and offices can open with capacity limits. Indoor dining is still not allowed.

More restrictions will lift in the area if hospital bed availability stays consistent or increases, test positivity rates continue to decline, and hospitalizations for COVID-19 don’t increase.

State officials haven’t announced when more rules might be eased in the Metro East, which would let some indoor service at bars and restaurants resume.

Original story from Jan. 21

Health officials in St. Clair County said changes in how the Illinois Department of Public Health uploads coronavirus data to its website account for why restrictions did not ease in the Metro East on Thursday.

At the county’s daily briefing on Wednesday, St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern said Region 4, which includes the Metro East, had hit benchmarks set by the state to lift some of the restrictions placed in November.

“When we announced yesterday that it appeared that we would be able to move back to Tier 2 in mitigations, the state later on retracted that and said our numbers were not what they thought they were,” Kern said at Thursday’s briefing.

Kern said the state had changed the way it processed regional metric data collected after Jan. 15 to look at seven-day rolling averages up from three-day rolling averages.

“They say the reason for the changes were to stabilize the trends, so [a region] would be less likely to be bounced into a different mitigation tier, only to change back maybe a few days later,” he said. “It does appear if the numbers remain consistent, we will be moving into Tier 2” on Friday.

This would mean movie theaters, casinos, fitness centers and offices could open with capacity limits, but indoor dining would still not be allowed.

Vaccine rollout update

St. Clair County health officials also announced the county would start rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations to people older than 75 on Monday. Madison County health officials are planning a similar rollout. Phase 1b includes people older than 75 and front-line essential workers like police officers, postal workers, public transit workers and grocery store workers.

“It’s going to take several weeks, if not a few months, to get through Phase 1b,” said Amy Yeager, Madison County Health Department public information officer.

She said it’s partially because there are many more people in that CDC designation, but also because of the way Illinois' scheduling system works.

“We also cannot schedule people until we have vaccine in hand,” Yeager said. “We can't give scheduled dates over the next three months right away, we can only do them a few weeks at a time.”

She added that many of the logistics for the county’s vaccine rollout are changing and are still being worked out.

Both Madison and St. Clair counties will start contacting people who are eligible to receive the vaccine if they signed up for notifications or provided information to health authorities.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid

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