State officials urge businesses to comply with health policies, residents to take precautions over holiday weekend


Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker answers questions from the media, along with Dr. Ngozi Ezike, left, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic from his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool)

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — In advance of the Independence Day weekend, Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged businesses to adhere to public health measures and warned people about the continued need for taking precautions in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

A Friday press release from the governor’s office stated that states across the county were seeing rapid increases, “including skyrocketing positivity numbers in tests.” It added wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and good hygiene was critical to reducing transmissions of the virus.

“The virus is not taking the holiday weekend off, and neither can we. Letting our guard down now would fly in the face of the progress we’ve made over many months,” said Pritzker. “We have seen that mitigation measures have worked in our state and we’ve seen too many other states rapidly lose ground in the fight against the virus.

Pritzker said if businesses cannot comply with capacity requirements, he will not hesitate to close them to keep people safe.

“We must continue to take the proven steps that keep us safe: wear a face covering, watch your distance and wash your hands,” he said. “While other parts of the country are refusing to follow the science and seeing their positivity rate and hospitalizations increase, Illinoisans have come together to keep each other safe. Let’s keep being all in for our communities.”

The release stated some states resumed their previous mitigations and closures, and numerous outbreaks have been identified among younger adults, adding many of them have died or suffered serious complications from COVID-19. Also, higher positivity rates increase the risk of exposure because the virus will circulate more within communities.

“Bars, by design, are social settings where people gather closely together for extended periods of time. Additionally, people often need to raise their voices or shout to be heard, which means droplets from seemingly well but infected individuals could spread further than the recommended six feet of distancing,” said Ezike. “All of these factors increase the risk of transmission and can lead to more cases and outbreaks.

“Over the holiday weekend, we strongly urge people to be socially responsible and avoid crowded bars and restaurants.  If you do go to one of these venues, please make sure to keep distance between yourself and others and wear a face covering.” 

Prior to the Independence Day weekend, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) and the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) contacted local authorities and business owners encouraging them to follow public health guidance and outlined the consequences for failing to comply with them.

The ILCC directed commissioners to “issue cease and desist warnings — and, if necessary, orders — based on Phase 4 safety requirements.”

If business operations are in violation of the law by threatening the welfare of the community, the release stated, the Illinois Liquor Control Act allows their commissioners to issue a written order that temporarily ceases a liquor license and immediately closes the premises without a hearing for up to seven days.

During that one-week period, the license holder will be given the opportunity “to be heard and come into compliance.”

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has also reminded all video gaming locations, terminal operators, and casinos of the consequences for not complying with health and safety requirements. They included possible license revocation.

The release stated the Illinois State Police has worked closely with local law enforcement and state regulators such as the ILCC and IGB on an incremental approach when dealing with “the small minority of business owners who have chosen to put themselves and others at risk.”

Those responses would begin with education and warnings, and then potential fines or license suspension or revocation in cases of repeated and egregious violations.

Chima Enyia, Illinois Liquor Control Commission Director, said state and local liquor authorities may take immediate action against license holders found to be threatening the welfare of the community.

Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, also joined Pritzker and other state officials in the release reminding businesses to comply with public health measures.

“In recent days, we have seen cities and states nationwide slide backwards in their re-openings,” he said. “We cannot allow this to happen to restaurants and bars in Chicago and across Illinois. We have launched a social media campaign – “Covered Faces Keep Open Places” – to urge restaurateurs, bar owners, employees, and diners to strictly follow local and state public safety guidelines during the holiday weekend and beyond to ensure we stay on a steady path to reopening our economy.”

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