More COVID Restrictions Loom for Illinois

(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

As reported last week, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has issued an order limiting bars and restaurants in “Region 4” of the state to outdoor service only and imposing an 11:00 pm curfew on them. While a number of bar/restaurant owners vowed to defy those orders, now comes news that, in fact, the entire state will be subject to those restrictions.

Per the Chicago Tribune:

All regions in the Illinois reopening plan will soon be under tighter restrictions as positivity rates for the coronavirus climb.

The final region to avoid the more restrictive measures — a chunk of north-central Illinois — will be under stricter rules starting Wednesday, officials announced Sunday.

Keep in mind, Illinois only recently had the restrictions lifted. Region 4 just had their restrictions lifted (after being subject to them since August 18th) less than a month ago.

Now, though, it’s right back into lockdown — at least for restaurants and bars.

When the restrictions take effect in Region 2, all 11 regions will be under the rollbacks in the governor’s plan, which include a ban on indoor dining and bar service, bar and dining service ending at 11 p.m. and at least a 25-person cap on gatherings. The restrictions do not apply to schools or polling places.

This, even though data supporting the premise that restaurants and bars — particularly those which have taken precautions to include ample spacing between tables and limited capacity — has not been provided. As mentioned in my prior article on the matter, Gov. Pritzker has given the following justification for this move:

“In region 8 (Kane and DuPage counties), for example, the number one place — the number one identifiable place that people said when they were contact-traced, that they had been to either just before they got tested or after they got tested but before they got their result, was a bar or a restaurant,” he said last week at a daily COVID-19 news conference. “And that’s true across the state.”

Take a closer look at that — what does “just before they got tested” mean? If I go out to dinner tonight at my favorite Italian restaurant, and then go get tested for COVID tomorrow and wind up with a positive test, does that mean I got it at the restaurant? (No.) Does that mean I transmitted it to someone else at the restaurant? (It’s possible but there’s no way to know.)

What about “after they got tested but before they got their result”? Well, first off, that implies that people have been getting tested and then still going out and about (and dining among the public) while awaiting their results. That seems…ill-advised. Which isn’t to say I doubt some people have done it. But it runs directly counter to all the guidance we’ve been given. And under those circumstances, that would mean the person who ultimately got a positive result already had the virus when they went to the bar or restaurant. Which, again, indicates the bar/restaurant wasn’t the source of their positive test but rather, their presence there may have exposed others.

Do we think those people who’ve been going out to bars and restaurants are skipping the grocery stores, nail salons, gyms, and their respective workplaces?

As of this morning, Illinois had recorded 429,761 (33,915 per million persons) COVID cases per Worldometers. 136,783 of those are classified as “active”. They are ranked 5th (among the 50 states and Washington D.C.) in total cases and 17th in cases per million. The state has recorded 10,093 deaths, which puts it in 6th place. That translates into 796 deaths per million persons, which puts it in 10th place. So, yes, Illinois is facing challenges — as we all are. What’s unclear is why it’s bars and restaurants that are being asked — or, rather, commanded — to shoulder that burden.

If there is data tying bars and restaurants in particular to positive COVID tests, let’s see it.