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Pritzker: State Police Will Check on Restaurants
By The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD - Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that Illinois State Police will start patrolling bars and restaurants in regions of the state where coronavirus numbers are surging, and establishments that disregard his new restrictions could face sanctions.

Pritzker announced the police patrols in four areas of the state, including southern Illinois. The officers will be authorized to disperse crowds and issue citations for violators.

A number of southern Illinois restaurants have decided to continue indoor dining in defiance of the governor. Owners say they can't survive on takeout orders alone, and if the state is determined to force the restaurants out of business they'll "go down fighting."

Many southern Illinois sheriffs have issued statements that they would not enforce the governor's edict against their county's restaurants and bars. They say any enforcement would be a health department issue, not a law enforcement issue. Many of the same sheriffs made the same statements in the spring and summer during earlier forced shutdowns by Pritzker.

Pritzker previously downplayed enforcement while begging for compliance, but he said times have changed.

“It is very serious right now, folks, and if we need to close down restaurants or bars or take away their liquor licenses, take away their gaming licenses, we will do that because we are now headed into a peak that is beyond, potentially, where we were in March and April,” Pritzker said during a visit to the St. Clair County Health Department in Belleville.

The number of statewide cases of COVID-19 set a single-day record Thursday, with 4,942, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. There were 44 additional deaths, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 9,387 among 360,159 confirmed infections.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, noted the similarity between recent case-number increases and the rampant rise of late spring. The entire state was placed on a stay-at-home order for about two months beginning in mid-March.

Pritzker has been sympathetic about the bitter pill forced on bars and restaurants. However, he has been carrying with him a sheaf of paper representing a dozen studies the administration maintains show that such entertainment venues are “spreading locations,” given how close people get in such places and that alcohol use might lower inhibitions about wearing face coverings.

He also notes that such enterprises are first in line for business-interruption grants offered by the state.

Resurgence mitigations, including outdoor-only bar and restaurant service that must end at 11 p.m. and limiting gatherings to 25 or fewer people, started Thursday for Region 5 in far southern Illinois, one of 11 COVID-19 monitoring regions in the state. They start Saturday for four populous suburban Chicago counties comprising Regions 7 and 8.

Restrictions in place since Oct. 3 have not stopped COVID-19′s spread in northwestern Illinois — Region 1. The rate of positive COVID-19 tests there is now 12%, up two percentage points in the past week alone. So Region 1 must observe even tighter restrictions beginning Sunday, such as no more than 10 people gathering at once and no more than six at an outdoor restaurant table.

Published 01:26 AM, Sunday Oct. 25, 2020
Updated 09:20 AM, Monday Oct. 26, 2020

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