Galesburg won’t enforce new bar, restaurant restrictions

GALESBURG – As tighter COVID-19 restrictions have now been imposed upon the entire state of Illinois following a resurgence of the novel coronavirus in all of the state’s 11 recovery regions, Galesburg Mayor John Pritchard says Galesburg will not be enforcing these restrictions.

The central-northern Region 2, which includes Knox County, the Quad Cities, Peoria and others, triggered new restrictions Sunday after three consecutive days of test positivity above 8%. It was the final Illinois region to do so.

The new rules will take place Wednesday, impacting Rock Island, Henry, Bureau, Putnam, Kendall, Grundy, Mercer, Knox, Henderson, Warren, McDonough, Fulton, Stark, Marshall, Peoria, Tazwell, McLean, Woodford, Livingston and LaSalle counties.

The rules will prohibit indoor dining for at least two weeks and limit gathering sizes to 25 or fewer people, but some communities plan to look the other way if businesses want to break the indoor dining rule.

Mayor John Kahl of East Peoria announced Sunday that his city will not be observing the restrictions.

"East Peoria will not be enforcing the restrictions that will be imposed by the Governor on our business community in the coming days," he wrote in a Facebook post, saying that not a single East Peoria business had been found by their health department to pose a risk to public health.

Mayor John Pritchard, speaking to The Register-Mail Monday afternoon, largely agreed with Kahl’s approach, saying that communications he has been given regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Galesburg have shown that long-term care facilities and private gatherings have been the biggest causes of traceable COVID cases.

"Very little have been from persons doing indoor dining, or from attending indoor bars," he said.

Consequently, he says the city will not enforce the new shutdown restrictions. From a city perspective, this means they will not, for example, send city employees to issue citations to establishments holding indoor diners.

"We’re not going to come out and say you have to shut down," Pritchard said. He said the governor has resources and could issue citations.

The Register-Mail reached out to Galesburg Police Chief Russ Idle following the announcement of the new restrictions to understand what role the police will or will not play in the restrictions.

Over email, Idle said, "During this entire process, the Galesburg Police Department has taken on the role of providing education and information to businesses and citizens regarding the requirements of the state, and ways to stay safe during the pandemic. We will continue on in that role."

When asked whether they would play an enforcement role — for example, how they would respond regarding a police call about a business breaking the restrictions — Idle said enforcement would be referred to either the county health department or the state.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Knox County, and Region 2’s COVID-19 numbers have most recently been at 9.7%, the highest recorded rate the region has seen.

COVID numbers in Knox County have risen by 137 over the past seven days, comparing Monday’s Illinois Department of Public Health data to data released the previous Tuesday by the Knox County Health Department. There have now been 1,477 cases in total in the county, and 21 deaths.

October was by far the most impactful month for COVID in the county, bringing weekly case yields consistently into the triple digits and 18 deaths into the county. If not by restricting indoor dining, Galesburg’s mayor hopes that further damage from the virus can be prevented by following social distancing, washing hands, and staying indoors when sick. Those with pre-existing conditions who could make themselves more susceptible to the coronavirus should take more precautions.

"People over age 70 or people with pre-existing health conditions, they need to be extremely careful," Pritchard said. "And now that we see COVID-19 has gotten into some of our care facilities, I think the state would be well-focused if they focused their testing on employees of those facilities."

Pritchard says Fire Chief Randy Hovind, who has held a leading position on the Knox County Unified Command, has said individuals not following quarantine protocols have been one cause of the uptick in case. Another has been trouble getting individuals who test positive to cooperate with contact tracers.

As far as the restaurants and bars, Pritchard noted that nobody has to go to them and dine or drink in person, but that he believes theses businesses have done "an excellent job" setting up protocols.

"We just have to rely on individuals to be responsible and focused like we have in the past," Pritchard said. "It’s served us pretty well in Knox County compared to most of the rest of the state and nation. We’ve done a good job slowing the strength of the disease."

He also said, referring to information shared during an Illinois mayors’ teleconference including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, that closing restaurants and bars could cause more damage than keeping them open, as it would put people out of work and harm or even destroy businesses.

"The negative effects will far outweigh any potential reduction in the spread," Pritchard said.

With all of this said, will Pritchard be dining out in person anytime soon?

"I fall into the category of people at higher risk, so I may not be dining out, but I’ll certainly make a point to support through carry-out and other ways," he said.

via Daily Review Atlas

November 2, 2020 at 09:21PM

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