Illinois Restaurant Association cites misleading far-right talking points in push against mitigations

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* Press release…

Sam Toia, President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association

The Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) cannot support the COVID-19 mitigation plan presented by Governor Pritzker’s office that ceases dine-in operations at restaurants across the state of Illinois. Moving backwards in this manner spells complete devastation for the restaurant industry. The extreme measures outlined by the Governor’s team will result in the permanent closure of countless restaurants statewide, eliminating thousands of jobs and desolating communities inhabited by millions of residents.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the restaurant industry – which is among the most highly regulated in health and safety – has quickly implemented and enforced enhanced procedures and policies with respect to sanitation, PPE, social distancing, timed reservation blocks, face coverings, hand sanitizer stations, signage and more. It’s alarming that restaurants are among the only businesses affected in the Governor’s most recent announcement given our unparalleled levels of safety.

We do not agree with the order to completely eliminate dine-in operations. The IRA wants to work with the Governor’s office on a pragmatic mitigation plan that supports the health and safety of our state without jeopardizing the livelihoods of the people and businesses that serve as the cornerstone of our communities. Earlier curfews and reduced occupancy levels are two examples of more reasonable measures.

We also have serious concerns over the consistency of the data the state is using to drive these devastating decisions to close our industry. By contrast, DuPage County has provided detailed statistics indicating that restaurants are linked to just 6% of outbreaks over the past seven months – yet their indoor dining was shut down. As the science surrounding COVID-19 has evolved, so must the metrics for mitigation.

Additionally, as restaurants are forced to close indoor dining and lay off their team members, they do so without any financial support. The funding opportunities currently available from the state of Illinois are only helping the smallest fraction of restaurant operations. The state needs to provide grants, waive licensing and permitting fees and delay tax payments, as well as advocate for relief at the federal level.

Conservative estimates indicate that at least 20 percent of restaurants will be forced to close their doors permanently. This means 120,000 jobs in Illinois, gone.

We cannot allow this to happen. Closing restaurants down now means closing them for good!

The situation today is much different than it was in March through May, when restaurants were closed to all on-premises dining, Sam. Citing old statistics to make your case might win an uninformed debate, but sharing talking points with Amy Jacobson and others on the extreme far right about those DuPage County numbers is not a good look.

Much more recent numbers show that restaurants are the number two driver of outbreaks in DuPage, behind nursing homes. And, as I told subscribers this morning, if you want to control the spread in nursing homes and other congregate facilities, you have to control community spread

Mayor Tim Kabat was already on edge as thousands of students returned to La Crosse, Wis., to resume classes this fall at the city’s three colleges. When he saw young people packing downtown bars and restaurants in September, crowded closely and often unmasked, the longtime mayor’s worry turned to dread.

Now, more than a month later, La Crosse has endured a devastating spike in coronavirus cases — a wildfire of infection that first appeared predominantly in the student-age population, spread throughout the community and ultimately ravaged elderly residents who had previously managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic.

For most of 2020, La Crosse’s nursing homes had lost no one to covid-19. In recent weeks, the county has recorded 19 deaths, most of them in long-term care facilities. Everyone who died was over 60. Fifteen of the victims were 80 or older. The spike offers a vivid illustration of the perils of pushing a herd-immunity strategy, as infections among younger people can fuel broader community outbreaks that ultimately kill some of the most vulnerable residents. […]

Local efforts to contain the outbreak have been hamstrung by a statewide campaign to block public health measures, including mask requirements and limits on taverns, he added. “Your first responsibility as a local government is really to protect the health and safety and welfare of your residents,” he said. “When you feel like that’s not happening and you have few tools or resources available to change that, it’s more than frustrating.” […]

Recent data released by Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that weekly cases in nursing homes rose nationwide in late September as the disease became more widespread in 38 states and the country entered its third coronavirus spike. That marked the first uptick in seven weeks in long-term care, after new cases dropped throughout August and early September.

All that being said, this is an absolute travesty. A coordinated, responsible federal response to this pandemic would have eased the suffering of people who work in and own restaurants. But with deaths, hospitalizations and positivity rates soaring here, what we do not need is one of the state’s leading business associations using false right-wing propaganda to make its case.

CF Full

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October 22, 2020 at 11:49AM

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