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East Peoria Will Not Enforce New COVID Restrictions, Mayor Says

Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
East Peoria Mayor John Kahl holds a press conference, May 1, 2020.

East Peoria Mayor John Kahl said the city will have no part in the enforcement of additional restrictions announced by Gov. JB Pritzker as COVID-19 cases surge.

Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced bars and restaurants in Region 2 can no longer serve patrons indoors starting on Wednesday, as the seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate surges above 8 percent for the third consecutive day.

In a post circulated widely on social media, Kahl asked citizens to continue to support the business community.

"We will continue to support the rights of all members of the business community to remain open," Kahl said. "The businesses of East Peoria have done their part throughout these challenging times and not a single one of them has been found by the Health Department to pose a risk to public health."

This is not the first time East Peoria government has bucked the governor's COVID-19 orders. Back in early May, Kahl convened a press conference announcing the city was lifting restrictions on businesses impacted by Pritzker's stay-at-home order.

Most businesses didn't actually take East Peoria up on that offer back in the spring, as the state has superceding authority over many types of business licenses, including liquor licenses.

Many local law enforcement officials, including Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower and Woodford County Sheriff Matt Smith, said they don't recognize the governor's executive orders as having the force of law.

Other mayors in Region 2 appear to be on the same page as Kahl.

"We support freedom of choice and our Constitutional rights," said Washburn Mayor Steve Doocey in announcing the Woodford County community 25 miles northeast of Peoria also will not be enforcing the new order.

A similar stance was taken by Joel Quiram, the mayor of Princeton in Bureau County.

"Since the pandemic began in March, our businesses and residents have made responsible decisions every day with the virus in mind," Quiram said. "Businesses will continue to do what is in their best interest and in the best interest of their customers, and residents will do the same."

Pritzker has threatened to deploy Illinois State Police troopers to inform non-compliant businesses of the orders, and if necessary, take enforcement action. So far, that's only happened in a few, limited cases.

Many Republican lawmakers have asked Pritzker to show more of the data guiding his decisions and consider adjustments to his policies, citing the economic damage done to small businesses across the state.

As of Sunday, all 11 health regions of Illinois are under or awaiting additional restrictions.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.