SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A region that encompasses central and west-central Illinois, including the capital of Springfield, became the latest Thursday to face restrictions on social interaction because of an elevated rate of positive tests for COVID-19.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's declaration for Region 3, which includes Lincoln on the east edge, Springfield, Jacksonville and west to Quincy, was the ninth of 11 COVID-19 monitoring regions to be placed under “resurgence mitigations” to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions, which take effect Sunday, halt indoor bar and restaurant service, closes those establishments at 11 p.m. and limits the size of gatherings to 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity.
“Something has got to give, and these mitigations aim to cut down on those high-risk activities until we bring down the positivity rate in an area once again ...," Pritzker said. "When every single metric in every single corner of the state is trending poorly, we have to take meaningful action to keep our people safe.”
Positive test rates of 8% or more for three days running triggered the limits in Region 3. Health experts believe the coronavirus is manageable with positive test rates at 5% or lower.
It's the fifth region of the state for which Pritzker has ordered mitigations just this week, including Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, as COVID-19 continues to reach record levels. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported another 6,363 infections on Thursday, a new single-day record, with 56 additional deaths.
Like Senate Republicans a day earlier, four GOP members of the Illinois House from Region 3 held a video conference seeking a reprieve for bars and restaurants, unimpressed that the Democratic governor has promised to make public contact-tracing data to back up his actions by next week. Rep. Avery Bourne of Morrisonville said restauranteurs are particularly conscientious about safety precautions and as a result, no outbreaks or super-spreader events have been linked to such establishments.
Rep. Tim Butler of Springfield argued that while he doesn't doubt Pritzker's intentions, his focus on battling the virus has come at the expense of the hardships it's wreaked.
“Today, we’re having it come home to roost where we’re going to get businesses in our districts to shut down because the governor has refused to put the same weight on the economic damage of COVID that he’s doing on the health side of COVID,” said Butler, who is quarantining in his basement after testing positive for COVID-19 last weekend.
Democrats, meanwhile, are not sitting silently by. A senator and four representatives from Chicago wrote to Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot asking them to help the affected service sector by giving them top priority for grants, allowing delayed sales tax payments, and waiving late fees and other penalties.
The two sections still resisting crackdowns are Region 2, including Rock Island, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Pontiac, and Region 6, with Decatur, Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Charleston.
Pritzker, who has weathered criticism this week from the bars and restaurants that lose business under the rules, went public in Chicago Thursday to showcase his release of $94 million in grant funding for businesses and communities struck by the pandemic. He said there's $19.5 million for bars and restaurants specifically.
In all, Pritzker said the money will be distributed to more than 1,200 business and 163 communities that requested reimbursements of their emergency costs.
Since the pandemic moved into Illinois in March, COVID-19 has claimed 9,675 lives amid 395,458 cases.
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