County modifies food, bar standards for COVID-19 prevention


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — On the same day that four, other Central Illinois counties were placed under a “warning” by the state due to their increase in COVID-19 cases, Sangamon County officials publicized new efforts they’re requiring restaurants and bars to implement to avoid “reverting back to Phase 3, or worse, a second lockdown.”

For two weeks, Sangamon County has seen newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19, which now total past 700 overall. Thirty-four people have died after contracting the virus in that county.

The four counties the state put on notice today — Adams, LaSalle, Peoria and Randolph — were universally described by state public health officials as having “risky behaviors” such as large social gatherings and bars or restaurants failing to enforce any preventative measures of COVID-19.

With that in mind, Sangamon County officials said in a press release today that, while concerns for older people catching the coronavirus has not disappeared, “current data suggest that our focus needs to shift to our younger population in social settings.”

“In an effort to continue focusing our limited resources where we can be the most effective in preventing spread, we must address outbreaks at restaurants and bars,” multiple public officials wrote in the release.

The county has drafted new health and safety requirements that, if ignored by local businesses, will potentially result in fines, suspension of food or liquor permits and, if necessary, the ultimate closure of a business “pursuant to existing County ordinances.”

“It is our hope that compliance from business owners, along with compliance from the patrons, will reduce the spread of disease, keep our hospital capacity stable and keep our local economy open,” officials stated in the press release.

Among the changes the county is requiring:

Occupancy and Social Distancing: Establishments must operate at the lesser of 50 guests OR 50% of overall space capacity. For example, if the capacity of an establishment is thirty guests, the number of guests allowed will be fifteen. In seated areas, spacing must allow for at least 6-ft. of distance between tables or other designated patron service areas; if tables/ booths cannot be moved, employers must only use every other table/ booth to allow for separation between patrons of unrelated parties. In standing areas, the maximum occupancy is 25% of standing area capacity. To the extent possible, patrons must wait for services off-premises, either outdoors and maintaining a social distance of 6-ft with the use of recommended face coverings or in their vehicles. Patrons can remain in the waiting area but should adhere to 6-ft distancing guidelines. The Springfield Fire Department will assist Sangamon County Liquor and Health Inspectors in determining occupancy limits.

Face Coverings: Establishments must have an adequate supply of face coverings for staff, as well as a policy and training for staff to wear their face coverings. Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth. Patrons should be encouraged to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth anytime they are not seated with their own household/party or not adhering to 6- ft distancing guidelines.

Hand Washing and Sanitizing Stations: Hand-washing sinks must be accessible, functional with hot and cold running water, and fully stocked with soap, hand drying devices, and waste cans. Hand sanitizing stations must be provided, as appropriate, in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene by both patrons and employees to supplement hand washing. Train and remind employees of effective hand hygiene practices, including washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Live Music: Live music is permitted, but employees and performers must follow social distancing guidelines, keeping the maximum distance possible from each other and customers. Performers must wear face coverings where possible, and the use of barriers between singers and customers and employees during the performance is strongly encouraged. Patrons should wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, except while seated or adhering to 6-ft distancing guidelines. At this time, Karaoke is not permitted in Sangamon County.

Officials said that, overall, they’ve been pleased with the compliance rate from local businesses. The new ordinances are designed with only “a few” in mind that may not be complying, they noted in the release.

They also reiterated requirements the state has already set into places, such as the requirement for all who are medically able to wear face coverings, practice social distancing and regular hand-washing.

Earlier this week, the Metro East area was targeted by Gov. JB Pritzker during a press conference as an area with cause for concern. He reiterated that he had “spoke(n) with local leaders and I’ve asked them to clamp down on the outbreaks where they’re occurring so that the state won’t have to step in.”

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