CHICAGO (CBS) — The Metro East region of Illinois near St. Louis will see tighter restrictions imposed beginning Wednesday, as its COVID-19 positivity rate has continued to rise.
Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday that ever since mid-August, the Metro East Region – Region 4 in the Restore Illinois plan – has continued to average a coronavirus positivity rate of 8 percent or more.
Thus, the closing of bars, restaurants, and casinos by 11 p.m. nightly, a ban on party buses, and a reduction of gathering sizes to the lesser of 25 people or 25 percent room capacity.
If metrics do not improve after 14 days, tighter mitigation efforts such as the closing of bars and restaurants altogether may happen.
The specific new restrictions for the Metro East area taking effect Tuesday are as follows:
• All bars must close at 11 p.m. and may not reopen until 6 a.m. the next day. The same goes for restaurants.
• All bar patrons must be seated at tables outside, and no ordering, seating, or congregating at a bar will be allowed. Standing and congregating, whether indoors or outdoors, is also forbidden while waiting for a table at a bar or restaurant. Bar stools are to be removed.
• Tables at restaurants and bars must be six feet apart.
• Standing or dancing indoors is not allowed.
• Multiple parties may not be seated at one restaurant table.
• At events such as meetings, social events, weddings, funerals, and potlucks, the limit is to the lesser of 25 guests or 25 percent overall room capacity both indoors and outdoors.
• Party buses may not operate.
• Casinos and gaming halls must close at 11 p.m. and are limited to 25 percent capacity and the same rules as restaurants and bars.
• Rules remain the same for organized group recreational activities.
The IDPH will track the positivity rate in the area in the days to come to determine the next steps. If the positivity rate averages 6.5 percent or less over two weeks, the area can go back to Phase 4. If the positivity rate is between 6.5 and 8 percent, the state will continue monitoring the region to determine if further mitigations are needed. If the positivity rate averages 8 percent or more over two weeks, tighter restrictions will go into effect.
The state announced plans last month to impose tighter restrictions on the Metro East area due to its climbing positivity rate, but later agreed to hold off on imposing stricter mitigation rules for two weeks after consulting with local health officials, who wanted to work with St. Louis to come up with similar standards on both sides of the Mississippi River.
“They pointed out to us that they believed that if we set some slightly different set of mitigations around bars and restaurants, that that would be effective. And listening to them, we felt like because they had been in communication with folks in St. Louis, and had seen some of the challenges of being right on the border, that maybe that was a good idea to listen to them and follow their suggestion,” Gov. Pritzker said last week.
Tighter mitigation efforts are also in place in Will and Kankakee counties.