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Woodstock temporarily suspends bag tax amid COVID-19 concerns

Maria Ortez of Woodstock loads her car up with groceries from Aldi's on Monday in Woodstock. The city has a bag tax, and a lot of stores are beginning to ban reusable bags being brought into the store.
Maria Ortez of Woodstock loads her car up with groceries from Aldi's on Monday in Woodstock. The city has a bag tax, and a lot of stores are beginning to ban reusable bags being brought into the store.

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The city of Woodstock has temporarily suspended its 10-cent tax of single-use grocery bags in an attempt to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The decision took effect at an emergency City Council meeting Wednesday and is slated to last until June 1, Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager said. The city's Environmental, and Cultural & Social Awareness Commission, which was scheduled to review the program in July 2021, now will do so in January 2022, according to Wednesday's agenda packet.

"We had some residents express concerns and we thought it was a practical and appropriate thing for us to do," Sager said.

The move to temporarily eliminate the single-use bag tax is on par with Gov. JB Pritzker's recommendations to improve shoppers' health and safety at grocery stores throughout Illinois.

During a news conference Saturday, Pritzker called for all grocery stores to ban reusable bags until further notice. Other safety measures the governor suggested include regular P.A. system reminders about social distancing and sneeze guards at cashier and bagging areas. Pritzker also asked that shoppers use delivery and curbside pickup services when possible, or opt for a self-checkout register to limit person-to-person interaction.

"Remember, they’re looking out for you as much as they’re looking out for themselves and anyone else," Pritzker said of grocery store employees.

On Saturday, the Mariano’s store in Skokie announced that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. The Skokie Health Department was made aware of the situation and worked closely with store management ensure that proper notification, sanitization and hygiene protocols were followed, the health department said in an official statement.

In McHenry County and throughout the state, several grocery stores already had safety precautions in place regarding COVID-19. Considered an essential service, grocery stores throughout McHenry County have remained open during the statewide shelter-in-place order that Pritzker issued on March 20. Many stores have established designated shopping hours for senior citizens, and ask the customers practice social distancing by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.

"These are challenging times for all and I think we’re all just doing the best we can to stay on top of all the information that’s out there," Sager said.

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