With medical bed availability removed from the metrics determining whether a region moves down a tier (ICU bed capacity is still a measurement), Region 10 has moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2. | Graph from the Cook County Department of Public Health

Last week Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that three of Illinois’ 11 regions were moving down from Tier 3 COVID-19 mitigations to Tier 2. On Saturday, he announced that one of those three, a region in southern Illinois, was moving down into Tier 1.

But a change to the mitigation metrics on Jan. 18 paved the way for the governor to relax restrictions in other regions by removing a requirement the hospital/surgical beds be at or above 20 percent availability as one of the criteria.

This had been the sticking point for Region 10, which encompasses suburban Cook County including Forest Park, and which had met all requirements other than that one.

All regions in Illinois were put under Tier 3 mitigations on Nov. 20, a move that maintained a shutdown on indoor dining and also shuttered museums, bowling alleys, indoor fitness classes and other business operations.

Although Tier 2 does come with some loosened restrictions, such as once more allowing indoor group fitness classes, relief will not be provided to restaurants and bars, which are still not be allowed to serve customers indoors. Dining inside restaurants and bars can resume only when a region moves to Tier 1.

So before businesses in Forest Park can officially start serving indoors — although many already have — the region has to get to Tier 1.

To move to Tier 1, three conditions must be met. First, the test positivity rate must be below 8 percent for three consecutive days. Second, ICU beds must continue to be at or above 20 percent availability. Third, there can be “no sustained increase” in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days.

County cites violators of indoor dining ban

Despite the fact that indoor dining and drinking is not allowed under Tier 3 and 2 mitigation restrictions, many establishments in and around Forest Park have opened all the same.

Some, like Charlie’s on Roosevelt Road, never closed at all. Others shut their doors to serving inside temporarily, then quietly opened them again.

The village of Forest Park has said it will issue warnings and provide information about the mitigations to non-complying businesses, but further steps, such as taking away a liquor license, is not the plan, as officials believe it opens Forest Park to a potentially expensive and time-consuming litigation.

Cook County Department of Public Health, however, has done inspections of restaurants, and has issued some of them restaurants violation notices. These establishments, according to the Cook County website, are subject to penalties “including arrest, a fine of $1,000 per offense, and further actions.”

There are currently eight Forest Park establishments on the county’s list. They are Blueberry Hill, McGaffers, Slainte, Charlie’s, Angelo O’Leary’s, Jimmy’s Place, FatDuck and O’Sullivan’s.