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New COVID Restrictions On Restaurants, Bars Begin Wednesday

Sunday marked the third straight day that Region 2's testing positivity rate has exceeded 8%. That means mitigations are imminent, likely by the middle of the coming week.
Sunday marked the third straight day that Region 2's testing positivity rate has exceeded 8%. That means mitigations are imminent, likely by the middle of the coming week.

Indoor service at bars and restaurants in Bloomington-Normal and the Tri-County area will be prohibited starting Wednesday, as new COVID-19 mitigations go into effect.

The new mitigations, announced Sunday, are the result of Region 2 recording three straight days of testing positivity rates above 8%. Region 2 includes McLean, Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and 16 other counties.

Region 2 was the last region in Illinois to not already be under new mitigations or on track to be.

"Now every region in Illinois will soon be operating under resurgence mitigations,” Gov. JB Pritzker said. “I know that the vast majority of people in this state want to keep themselves safe, their families and children safe, their parents and neighbors and friends. I have always maintained enormous faith in the people of Illinois to do what’s right for each other. As cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising across our state, across the Midwest and across the nation, we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people we love."

The new mitigations include:

  • No indoor service at bars and restaurants
  • Outdoor service must end by 11 p.m.
  • Reservations required for each party at restaurants and bars
  • Gatherings limited to 25 guests or 25% room capacity, or whichever is less
  • Gaming and casinos close at 11 p.m. and are limited to 25% capacity

These mitigations do not apply to schools or polling places.

A recent study from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found adults who tested positive for the coronavirus were about twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant within a two-week period prior to becoming sick.

“The mitigation measures soon to be implemented across the entire state of Illinois have been established to protect your health and the health of those around you,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Depratmet of Public Health (IDPH), said in a statement. "These mitigation measures are not meant as a punishment, but as a way to help all of us co-exist with COVID-19 more safely."

Some were critical of the move.

State Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, said the "continuous stream of mitigation orders from the governor’s office have done more harm than good."

"This is a devastating blow to our local businesses that are still struggling to recover from the first round of shut down orders. Sadly, some never will,” Brady said in a statement. “As I have been stressing for months, this is a decision that must be made at the local level using local health data that is open and available for all to see. Our local communities must have a say in their own destiny.”

McLean County's testing positivity rate, by itself, was 6.1% as of Thursday (most recent data available). Peoria County's was 8.3% as of Thursday. There is more testing happening in Peoria and McLean counties than in other less populated parts of Region 2.

Illinois and many other states have seen a new wave of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

On Saturday, Illinois set a new single-day record for new infections for the third straight day, with 7,899 cases.

The McLean County Health Department no longer reports COVID-19 data on weekends. The next department update is not expected until Monday morning.

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