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Illinois to Halt Indoor Restaurant Service in Western and Southern Suburbs

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike are targeting bars and restaurants

Illinois Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker Speaks At The Bicentennial Party
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus briefings have returned.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, citing rising COVID-19 numbers outside of Chicago, has announced the state will once again ban indoor service at bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, and Will counties. Chicago is unaffected by the ban.

The restrictions will go into effect on Friday, affecting cities like Naperville, Aurora, and Joliet. In May, the state divided the state into 11 regions for its COVID-19 response plan. Pritzker said all 11 are currently seeing spikes in novel coronavirus cases, particularly south and west of Chicago, in the four aforementioned counties (Regions Seven and Eight). This announcement after a COVID-19 briefing yesterday, where Pritzker noted “it is an unfortunate fact that the research, and there is a lot of it, shows that bars and restaurants are places where there is a lot of spread of the virus.”

The state’s daily coronavirus briefings restarted this week, as state officials are seeing increased hospitalizations. While not citing a specific study, Pritzker doubled down on his comments during Tuesday’s news briefing, saying “bars and restaurants are significant spreading locations.”

The comments, at first glance, seem to contradict Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who on Monday, along with Chicago health department commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, said that the city’s data didn’t point to restaurants as the primary cause of the recent spike. Lightfoot said that should data support that indoor dining is a source of spread, it would be easy to shut down restaurants. The city recently increased indoor dining capacity from 25 percent to 40 percent.

However, state health department director Dr. Ngozi Ezike singled out restaurants during Tuesday comments. By using contact tracing, health experts have determined that the riskiest places for the spread of the virus were at work, at school, and at restaurants/bars, Ezike said. Tracing looks at where those infected have visited over the last two weeks to determine where they have contracted the virus.

Ezike said the state is allowing local officials determine whether to open schools, and that not everyone has the privilege to work from home.

“The next thing we can actually act on is the bars and restaurants,” Ezike said.

Restaurant insiders have also noticed a rift between the city and state. On Monday, Lightfoot and Arwady emphasized they were seeing the virus attack all Chicago neighborhoods, demographics, and locales, making it difficult to implement a strategy to target the problem. On Tuesday, Pritzker and Ezike painted a target on restaurants and bars.

“We want to stop the spread, to slow the spread as best as we can,” Pritzker said.