Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, all indoor service for Forest Park bars and restaurants is suspended, as Governor J.B. Pritzker announced resurgence mitigations in Region 10, which encompasses suburban Cook County.
According to an Oct. 26 press release from the state, Region 10 has had eight straight days of increases in COVID-19 positivity rate and seven days of increased hospitalization admissions, surpassing “warning levels in two categories simultaneously.”
“Region 10 … is the first region in Illinois to earn additional mitigations not because of its positivity rate alone, but because its positivity rate and its COVID-related hospitalizations have both seen a sustained increase over the last 10 days,” said Pritzker in the press release.
Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said he’s worried about the effect the inevitable closures will have on business in town.
“This news is not unexpected but extremely sad,” Gillian said. “There’s no end in sight for these small businesses, and I’m concerned that many of them will not survive. This shutdown could change the face of Forest Park for years to come.”
Marty Sorice, owner of several bars and restaurants in town, said, “As much as it will hurt my family and my coworkers, this is the right thing to do. I also am urging all my coworkers to apply for unemployment immediately. We will do all we can to get through this.”
Mayor Rory Hoskins shared the sentiment that the mitigation measures being put in place are to protect residents.
“The governor’s orders are in the best interests of Illinois’ citizens, and the village will assist in implementing the executive orders,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said the village has been carefully monitoring statewide COVID reporting for the past several weeks, in addition to looking at border states, so the news isn’t surprising. He spoke about creative solutions to the shutdowns.
“The village anticipated the need to be creative with respect to outdoors dining and responding to requests from restaurants and taverns,” Hoskins said. “We will be flexible with requests for outdoor heating devices, etc. Our limitation is that devices purchased to enhance the outdoor dining experience (like heaters) cannot involve drilling into or penetrating any publicly-owned sidewalks or damaging property that is not owned by the restaurant or tavern.”
Region 4 (Metro East) triggered additional mitigation efforts too. Four other regions in Illinois were previously targeted for extra restrictions after meeting resurgence thresholds as well.
“Starting Wednesday, 6 of our 11 regions will be operating under our resurgence framework,” said Pritzker in the press release.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike spoke about hospital admissions and the need to keep those numbers as low as possible.
“We are seeing test positivity across the state increase, but for Region 10, Suburban Cook County, we are also seeing a steady increase in hospitalizations for COVID-like illness,” Ezike said in the release. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we were concerned about overwhelming our hospitals and we must take action now to prevent that possibility. We are entering flu season and our hospitals are facing both COVID-19 and flu admissions. The same things that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of flu. Please, wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear your mask. And make sure to get your flu shot.”
The following mitigations begin Oct. 28 in Region 10, which includes Forest Park:
- No indoor service will be allowed in either bars or restaurants.
- All outdoor dining or bar service closes at 11 p.m. and may open no earlier than 6 a.m. the following day.
- Outside tables for both bars and restaurants should be 6 feet apart. Bar patrons should be seated at tables.
- In bars, no ordering, seating or congregating at the bar is allowed. Bar stools should be removed to prevent this from occurring.
- While waiting for a table at a restaurant or bar, no standing or congregating indoors or outdoors is allowed.
- Dancing or standing indoors is not allowed at bars.
- Reservations are required for each outdoor-dining party at both bars and restaurants.
- Multiple parties may not be seated at the same table.
In addition, meetings, social events and gatherings are limited to 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity. Party buses are not allowed.
The IDPH will track the positivity rate to see if and when mitigations can be relaxed, or if additional restrictions are needed. For Region 10, the IDPH will be looking at three measures to determine if restrictions can be lifted and the region can return to Phase 4:
- The positivity rate must average less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a three-day period.
- There must be a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illnesses over a three-day period.
- The three-day rolling averages of ICU bed availability and medical/surgical bed availability must be greater than or equal to 20 percent over a seven-day period.