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Pritzker says mitigation rules will be enforced; COVID-19 infections continue to rise

Staff Writer
State Journal-Register

Illinois State Police officers have been alerted to be on patrol in areas with coronavirus mitigation efforts in place, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday.

“They have the ability to issue citations, but they’ll start by asking people to disperse and warnings and so on,” Pritzker said. “But they have the ability to issue citations and also with the information we get at the state level we can take away people’s liquor license.”

Pritzker said that so far he has been reluctant to pull the liquor license from an establishment that refuses to adhere to the mitigation guidelines “because it has a semi-permanent effect on a business.”

“But now we’re going to be making sure we enforce that,” he said.

Pritzker made the comment as four of the state’s 11 regions for monitoring the coronavirus pandemic are under mitigation measures because of increasing COVID-19 caseloads. In each of those regions, indoor service at bars and restaurants is forbidden and those establishments must close by 11 p.m. Also, crowds in those regions are limited to 25 or fewer people.

“It is up to each of those regions to continue to enforce the mask mandate, to make sure that they’re keeping within the capacity limits that we know they’re supposed to,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker brought a dozen studies with him to Wednesday’s news conference that all underscored that “bars and restaurants are in fact a major spreading location for the virus.”

“It’s disconcerting to me that people want to just lie about it or disbelieve the facts,” he said. “We’ve been operating on facts, data and science. We’re not making arbitrary decisions.”

In Region 8, which covers DuPage and Kane counties, contact tracing showed that the number one place people said they’d been to just before they got tested was a bar or a restaurant, the governor said.

“That’s true across the state,” Pritzker said.

Numbers released by the Illinois Department of Public Health showed coronavirus numbers continuing to move in the wrong direction, including the highest numbers for deaths and hospitalizations since June. `The department said 69 people died in the last 24 hours bringing the death toll to 9,345.

The department reported 4,342 new cases of the virus bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 355,217.

There are 2,338 people hospitalized with the virus, 502 of them in intensive care. The statewide positivity rate is 5.7%. All three numbers have steadily climbed this week.

Pritzker said all seven of the state’s regions that are not under mitigation measures now have exceeded a 7% positivity rate. State guidelines stipulate that if a region exceeds an 8% positivity rate for three consecutive days, mitigation measures are imposed.

The state uses a three tiered series of mitigations to control the virus’ spread. So far, all regions that have been put under mitigations have been under the least restrictive measures.

Contact Doug Finke: doug,.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr