The state has placed tighter rules on a portion of southwest Illinois after seeing more community spread of the coronavirus disease. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker admits it might not be enough to slow the spread of COVID-19.
A seven county area, known as Region 4 under the governor's Restore Illinois plan, includes the Metro East near St. Louis. It is the first region to have its economic reopening rolled back, albeit slightly.
The positivity rate for Region 4 has been rising for more than a week and passed a threshhold of eight percent over a three day span, while the statewide rate is around four percent. That triggered Illinois officials to act.
Bars, restaurants and casinos will have to close by 11 p.m., same as across the river in the city of St. Louis. Social gatherings are also topped at 25 people or 25 percent of a room’s capacity.
“Region 4 is the first of the 11 regions to reach resurgence criteria, but we hope it will be the last," said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike.
“We could be just a step away from additional mitigations if things don’t turn around in the next two weeks,” Gov. Pritzker warned. He said the two week window will give ample time to determine if the changes are having the desired effect.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, if the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a 14-day period, the region will return to Phase 4 mitigations under the Restore Illinois Plan. If the positivity rate averages between 6.5 percent and 8 percent, IDPH will continue to monitor the region to determine if additional mitigations are needed. If the positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8 percent after 14 days, more stringent mitigations will be applied to further reduce spread of the virus, which can include the closure of indoor bars and dining.
IDPH said it has been working closely with local health departments in the Metro East to provide education to the public and offer information to businesses and organizations on safe ways to reopen. The agency has also provided guidance to retail stores, restaurants, offices, and businesses, as well as guidelines for outdoor events, sports, and recreation. The significance of face coverings, social distancing, and hand washing have been continuously emphasized by the administration throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early May, the State of Illinois opened a community-based testing site at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis to make testing more readily available for anyone.
Elizabeth Patton-Whiteside is the Public Health Administrator for the East Side Health District, which serves four Metro East townships. She was blunt when delivering a message to residents.
"Stop the crap about the test hurts, or I’m healthy, I don’t need to be careful. The test is not painful and you are not as healthy as you think,” she said.
The mitigation for Region 4:
- Meetings, social events, and other gatherings are now limited to the lesser of 25 individuals or 25 percent of overall room capacity
- All bars, restaurants, gaming facilities, and casinos will close at 11 pm, matching the newly imposed closing times for St. Louis
- All reception halls closed
- Party buses not allowed to operate
- Reservations required for each party at restaurants and bars, and no congregating indoors or outdoors
- Indoor tables reduced to six people or less
- No dancing indoors
- Removal of bar stools at bars to help prevent congregating
- Tables should continue to be six feet apart