URBANA – East-central Illinois restaurants and bars will have to operate under increased limitations, starting Monday, Nov. 2. That’s the starting date for COVID-19 resurgence mitigations announced for Region 6 by Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The 21-county region includes Champaign, Macon and Vermilion Counties. Other counties in Region 6 are Iroquois, Ford, Dewitt, Piatt, Moultrie, Douglas, Edgar, Shelby, Coles, Cumberland, Clark, Fayette, Effingham, Jasper, Crawford, Clay, Richland and Lawrence.
The limits include a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars, an 11 p.m. curfew on outdoor service, and caps on gatherings at no more than 25 people (schools and polling places are exempt).
The mitigations were announced after Region 6 sustained a 7-day average positivity rate of 8% or higher for three days in a row (the latest report was 8.6%). The mitigations can be lifted if Region 6 can report positivity rate averages of 6.5% or lower for three days in a row.
State officials say COVID-related hospital admissions in Region 6 have tripled since the middle of September. Hospitals in the region now average 18 admissions per day. Decatur’s two hospitals, Decatur Memorial Hospital and HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital, announced Friday that they will suspend visits for hospitalized patients effective Saturday, Oct. 31, to guard against spread of the coronavirus.
“With community transmission rates on the rise all around our state, it’s more important than ever to take caution, mask up, avoid gatherings and ensure your family gets through this as safe as can be,” Pritzker said, according to a news release.
The new mitigation orders for Region 6 were the topic of a conference call Friday involving local officials and restaurant owners in the Champaign-Urbana area. Senior Planner TJ Blakeman with the city of Champaign said around 100 people took part in the call, with restaurant owners voicing many questions and concerns.
“They’re frustrated, they’re nervous,” said Blakeman. “They’re very concerned about the livelihood of their business. That should come as no surprise. Unlike a retailer, where you can put off a purchase, once you pass a meal, you don’t come back and make up for it.”
Blakeman says local governments are committed to helping restaurants and bars during the mitigations. That includes help in applying for state Business Interruption Grants, and looking for ways to increase outdoor seating space for restaurants in downtown Urbana and Champaign’s Campustown area.
Meanwhile, State Senator Chapin Rose says if the Pritzker administration is going to get the coronavirus outbreak under control, it needs to expand testing programs. Rose, an Assistant Republican Leader from Mahomet, says residents in most Region 6 counties have a hard time getting tested for COVID-19, and have to wait too long for test results.
“In fact, I talked to a constituent this morning, who is from Decatur, and on the weekend was presented with nowhere to go to get a test,” said Rose. “And then subsequently got tested, but it took five or six days, she said, to get the results back. You go down to Cumberland County, to Neoga, you’ve got to drive 45 minutes to an hour to find a test.”
Rose says the testing program at the University of Illinois Urbana campus in Champaign County show that large-scale testing for COVID-19 is possible. But he argues that limited testing in other counties keeps positivity rates higher than they should be, and makes it harder to quickly identify and quarantine patients, especially in places like nursing homes and other congregate living facilities.
But the Pritzker administration describes the state’s testing operation as nation-leading, with statewide testing for Friday reported at a record high of 95,111 tests. The state is employing mobile testing in Region 6, with a mobile site scheduled to visit Effingham on Sunday, the Decatur Civic Center on Saturday and Sunday, and Danville Area Community College, November 2-8.
For a list of COVID-19 testing sites, go to https://www.dph.illinois.gov/testing