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Gov. JB Pritzker announced that additional restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 will go into effect for Will and Kankakee counties on Friday.
The South Suburban Region hit the threshold on Tuesday for the additional mitigations. The region has recorded three straight days of an average rolling COVID-19 test positivity rate of at least 8%, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
On Tuesday, the region's test positivity rate was 8.6% after reporting an 8.3% rate on Monday and an 8.2% rate on Sunday. The numbers the IDPH reports each day represent the tests performed three days earlier.
If a region records three consecutive days averaging an 8% positivity rate or higher, that triggers the implementation of additional mitigations to slow the spread of the virus.
The first tier of additional restrictions includes a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants. Eating and drinking establishments would be required to close at 11 p.m. Standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting is banned. Reservations are required for each party. Standing indoors and dancing in bars is also banned.
Social gatherings and events will be limited to 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity, both indoors and outdoors. Party buses are banned. Gambling areas and casinos must close at 11 p.m. and are limited to 25% capacity.
These mitigations do not apply to schools.
"As colder weather approaches and flu season is upon us, we’re going to see the rippling effects of these current unfortunate trends," Pritzker said during a news conference Tuesday. "The massive surge of cases in our neighboring states will continue to have a spillover effect. There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and our public health. But we can and will manage through this."
This is the second time Will and Kankakee counties have hit the threshold for additional restrictions. When the region's positivity rate rose above 8% late in the summer, restrictions were implemented Aug. 26 and lifted Sept. 18.
Amanda Daskalakis, the manager of Al's Steak House in Joliet, said news of having to shut down indoor dining again was "devastating." The restaurant had outdoor dining over the summer, but Daskalakis said it's more difficult now that the weather is colder.
"I just don't know how much the bar and restaurant industry can take," she said.
Don "Duke" Williams, the owner of Syl's Restaurant & Lounge in Rockdale, called the restrictions "absolutely crazy" and thought the industry was being "picked on." Williams said the cost for him to have outdoor dining, even during the summer, was difficult.
"You're killing a whole industry," he said.
Pritzker and health officials have said they based the restrictions on research that shows spread of the novel virus is especially problematic inside bars and restaurants.
"We're literally talking about piles of these studies that show that bars and restaurants are spreading locations, significant spreading locations," Pritzker said Tuesday.
The IDPH also noted that the South Suburban Region is reporting a "concerning" level of intensive care unit availability, which stood at 25% as of Tuesday, just above the state's 20% threshold.
The West Suburban Region, which comprises DuPage and Kane counties, will also be under the additional restrictions starting Friday. The Northern and Southern Regions of the state are already under the additional restrictions.
In order for the restrictions to be lifted, a region would need to record a rolling average test positivity rate of 6.5% or less for three consecutive days.
State health officials have said they reevaluate a region's metrics on two-week intervals. If the region's rolling positivity rate remains at 8% or above after 14 days, more stringent restrictions can be applied. If the rate falls to between 6.5% and 8%, the first tier of restrictions will remain in place.
For more information and resources on COVID-19, go to willcountyhealth.org.