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Pritzker warns Metro East will see new restrictions next week unless infection rates fall

Pritzker warns Metro East will see new restrictions next week unless infection rates fall

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EAST ST. LOUIS — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Tuesday he will tighten public health restrictions in the Metro East next week if the area’s virus numbers do not decline.

Those restrictions would close indoor dining rooms in restaurants, a penalty area officials are trying to avoid. Pritzker also said that bar and restaurant patrons statewide must wear a face covering, beginning Wednesday, any time they interact with employees.

“To a large extent it will be up to the residents of each region to decide where they go from here,” Pritzker said. “Because if you wear your mask, and you keep 6 feet of distance when in public, there will be a lot fewer infections and a lot fewer restrictions.”

The new rules would follow the measures that went into effect on Aug. 18, after the seven-day average of the region’s rate of positive tests exceeded 8% for three consecutive days.

In the Metro East, or Region 4 — which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties — bars and restaurants must already close at 11 p.m., require reservations for all customers and groups, and space tables 6 feet apart. Social events are limited to 25 people, or 25% of the space’s capacity — whichever is lower.

But on Tuesday, Pritzker said he would add more restrictions on Sept. 2 if the region’s positivity rate does not decline. Under the new rules, indoor service at bars and restaurants would no longer be allowed.

Pritzker made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday, where he also rolled out tighter restrictions to take effect Wednesday for Will County and Kankakee County in northeastern Illinois, near Chicago. Those two counties are referred to as Region 7.

“Unfortunately, the Metro East region continues to struggle with high infection rates,” Pritzker said. “Should things continue in that direction in Region 4, these same new mitigations that have been imposed on Region 7 will also take effect.”

The state’s public health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, had suggested putting the new measures in place in Metro East as early as Wednesday, according to the governor’s office. But the state had originally given the region two weeks to improve.

St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern said when local officials were notified that the new restrictions may take effect as soon as Wednesday, he advocated for Sept. 2, a week later, because he believed one week was too short to see change in the numbers.

“People expect that if you’re given two weeks to be able to get your numbers down, that that two weeks is the goalpost,” Kern said.

St. Clair County reported 54 new positive COVID-19 test results Tuesday, reaching a total of 5,503. The county reported a daily positivity rate of 6.3%.

The most recent data from the state public health department shows a 9.8% positivity rate for the entire Region 4.

Restrictions will relax if the positivity rate averages at 6.5% or lower over a two-week period. If it averages between 6.5% and 8%, the requirements will stay the same; and if it averages greater than 8%, they will become more stringent.

Madison County reported 56 new cases Tuesday, reaching a total of 3,616. The county’s 10-day positivity rate is 11%. Monroe County had 12 positive cases Tuesday, for a total of 414 cases.

Illinois reported 1,680 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday, reaching a total of 223,470, and 29 new deaths.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 43 new hospital admissions, up from 39 on Monday, and a seven-day moving average of 39.

Missouri reported 692 new cases of COVID-19, reaching a total of 76,636, and 14 new deaths. The city of St. Louis reported 27 new cases, reaching a total of 5,881. St. Louis County reported 235 new cases, reaching a total of 18,210.

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"We easily will hit six-figure numbers in terms of the number of cases," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Friday night. "And the deaths are going to go up precipitously in the next three to four weeks."

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