Gov. Pritzker closes restaurants and bars starting Monday night

Curbside pickup and drive-thrus can remain open

JB Pritzker meets with the Shaw Media Editorial Board at the Northwest Herald March 9, 2018, in Crystal Lake.
JB Pritzker meets with the Shaw Media Editorial Board at the Northwest Herald March 9, 2018, in Crystal Lake.

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Gov. JB Pritzker has announced that all restaurants and bars in the state will be closed after business hours Monday night through the end of the month to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

“We are working with restaurant owners and food delivery services across the state to see if restaurants can safely keep their kitchens open. So the restaurants can continue food delivery to people at their homes,” he said.

Drive-thru and curbside pickups for restaurants can remain open during this period.

“I know how difficult this will be for small businesses around the state. This is another hard step, but we must do everything we can to safeguard the health and safety of the citizens of the state of Illinois, and that requires urgent action,” Pritzker said.

The governor’s office has been working alongside the Illinois Restaurant Association in this effort.

“Public safety is the No. 1 concern for the Illinois Restaurant Association,” IRA President Sam Toia said. “The IRA will continue to advocate on behalf of economic relief for our employees and our small businesses. It is the No. 1 concern of the restaurant tour to make sure his or her team member get their paycheck.”

The decision to close all bars and restaurants in the state comes after “unacceptable” conditions at Chicago O’Hare International Airport customs Saturday, where hundreds waited for hours because of enhanced coronavirus screenings.

“As I’ve said, there are no easy decisions left to make as we address this unprecedented crisis. Every choice that we face is hard and it comes with real consequences for our residents. But as your governor I cannot let the gravity of these consequences prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe,” Pritzker said.

The governor announced Sunday that customs and border patrol at Chicago O’Hare International Airport will double staff after he demanded immediate action from the White House for the lack of federal response.

“Instead of being alerted by federal customs and border patrol, my administration learned through Twitter about the unacceptable and frankly dangerous situation at O’Hare International Airport,” he said Sunday. “When I saw hundreds of people crammed together for many hours at O’Hare in exactly the conditions that I have been warning about for days, I was furious.”

Prtizker said he has no interest in playing politics and will be monitoring the situation at O’Hare.

“My anger had everything to do with protecting the health and safety of the people of the state. If getting mad on Twitter is what it takes to get federal officials to act, then I am absolutely going to do that,” he said.

The Illinois Department of Health also announced an additional 29 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 93.

Five additional counties are now reporting cases – Champaign, Clinton, Sangamon, Whiteside, and Winnebago counties.

“The number of positive tests we’re getting each day is increasing exponentially. And the number of counties across Illinois is also expanding,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Health.

People should assume that this novel coronavirus is in their communities, she said.

“We all need to take steps to protect ourselves and reduce the spread. There’s evidence that transmission of the virus often occurs when symptoms first start so it’s important to limit close contact with people as much as possible even if you don’t feel that sick,” Ezike said.

Most COVID-19 cases are mild, Ekize said, however, older people and people of all ages who have severe chronic conditions including heart diseases, lung disease, diabetes and liver problems seem to be at higher risk of developing serious illness.

Pritzker had floated the idea of closing all bars and restaurants previously on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC. He also directed his anger toward the federal government for long lines at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport customs.

Sunday, he said of the long lines, “it’s going to be even worse.”

Soon after on Sunday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the city of Chicago was adding rules to limit gatherings at bars and liquor establishments and Chicago Police would be enforcing those rules, which require business owners to have less than half their normal max capacity and that capacity at any establishment will be capped at 100 persons.

Establishments also will be prevented from lining customers up outside while waiting for entry. Citations will be issued to establishment owners that don’t follow the new capacity limits.

Pritzker expressed disappointment Saturday in seeing long lines and posts on social media showing crowded bars and public gatherings, and asked that people “take this seriously” when it came to social distancing.

As for the long lines at customs, which is under federal jurisdiction, Pritzker tweeted Saturday night at President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, asking them to take action to address the crowds.

“The federal government needs to get its [expletive] together. NOW,” the governor tweeted.

Pritzker said on the NBC news program that he got a call from the White House at 11 p.m. Saturday, “from a White House staffer who yelled at me about the tweet. That is what I got.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the airport crowds could spread the disease, but that they are likely to continue. American citizens, he said, need to understand that there is no need to rush back from Europe, but “when people see a travel ban, they immediately want to hunker and get home.”

“Hopefully we don’t have more of that, but I think we probably unfortunately will,” he said.

The worldwide outbreak has sickened more than 156,000 people and left more than 5,800 dead, with thousands of new cases confirmed each day. The death toll in the U.S. climbed to 57, while infections neared 3,000.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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