SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Eight of Illinois’ emergency medical regions are now under enhanced COVID-19 restrictions due to rising positivity and hospital admissions. There’s now only three regions left without the mitigations closing indoor service at bars and restaurants. However, that could change quickly with Regions 3 and 6 on the verge of caution. Region 2 covering most of Central Illinois is also reporting rising positivity.
While state leaders work to stop the spread, Republican lawmakers say they shouldn’t forget about business owners. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says restaurants have been treated unfairly and turned into the scapegoat for COVID-19 spread.
“I just want to see the data that establishes that the governor has relied upon that shows that bars and restaurants are the major cause of the spread of COVID,” Durkin said.
Republicans are concerned Gov. JB Pritzker “moved the goalposts” with mitigations. The original plan required restaurants to cut capacity to 25% at Tier 1. Closing indoor dining completely would start under Tier 2 mitigations. Now, business owners say they’re tired of constant obstacles during the pandemic.
“More than 20% of Illinois restaurants have already closed permanently,” said Melissa McIntyre, Executive Director of the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce. “That’s more than 5,000 restaurants in the state of Illinois, and we don’t want to be one of those restaurants.”
A business in Kane County won a temporary restraining order against Gov. JB Pritzker’s enhanced restrictions on Monday. FoxFire Restaurant’s owner argued restaurants shouldn’t have targets on their backs while big box stores stay open with more customers.
“We’re paying for bills for things we ordered last month, come in now and we only have 20% of our income to pay for them. We’re gonna go broke,” K.C. Gulbroe explained.
Requesting data behind decisions
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers continue to feel blindsided by changes to the state’s COVID-19 response.
“We want to work with the governor and we want to be those 118 worker bees that go out and talk to the people and make sure that the people don’t think that they’re being hoodwinked by some of this data that we haven’t been able to see,” said Rep. Brad Stephens (R-Rosemont).
The Pritzker administration released data last week showing restaurants and bars as the second most commonly identified locations by COVID-positive patients. The state collected the data after asking individuals where they visited or worked over a two week period.
“If we aren’t able to bring down the number of cases and the rate of transmission, not only will our economy continue to suffer, but many more people will be hospitalized. Some will end up with long-term health consequences and too many will die,” Pritzker stressed on Wednesday.
Still, Senate Republicans hope to hold public hearings to get more answers on Pritzker’s decisions during the response to COVID-19.
“It’s time to stop just unilateral actions on the part of the governor,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington). “Convene the General Assembly to jointly make decisions that are good for the people of Illinois with transparent data.”
Pritzker says he is looking out for the businesses hit with these mitigations. However, he explained the state can’t provide more financial assistance without funding from the federal government.