Elmhurst mayor to Pritzker: Restaurants 'will not survive' restrictions
Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley is calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to lift a ban on indoor dining as DuPage and Kane counties could face a new tier of tighter restrictions in an effort to slow a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions.
Morley has joined several suburban mayors in pushing back against the shutdown on indoor bar and restaurant service. If imposed, the next level of mitigation measures would limit outdoor seating at bars and restaurants to six people per group.
In a letter to Pritzker, Morley said many small businesses will "not survive with the newly implemented restrictions."
"Eliminating indoor dining during our cold weather season will be FATAL to many restaurants in my hometown of Elmhurst and to many across our great state," Morley wrote.
The entire state has fallen under mitigation measures to tamp down the spread of COVID-19. Mayors in Libertyville and Itasca have said they won't enforce the dining ban, while many restaurants have openly defied it.
Pritzker admonished local officials Thursday as Illinois saw new COVID-19 cases jump Thursday to 9,935, a record.
"Far too many local governments across the state are failing to enforce any mitigation measures, allowing this continued rise in positivity to balloon out of control," Pritzker said. "It's time to take some responsibility. That's the only way that we will get out of this without having to implement more and more restrictions across more industries and across the entire state."
Morley urged Pritzker to "create a path to allow indoor dining." Morley said progress made in caring for COVID-19 hospital patients and recovery rates should also be taken into consideration.
But hospital officials are warning of staffing concerns handling a fall and winter surge in patients while major hot spots across the country limit the pool of available health care workers to help with the COVID-19 response.
Elmhurst Hospital was treating 61 inpatients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, up from 45 patients on Oct. 30.
Some local officials also have questioned the extent to which the rise in infections is linked to transmission in restaurants, which had indoor dining from June until the Oct. 23 shutdown.
The governor's office last month released a study of more than 17,000 Illinois residents who were infected with the virus in August or September. The largest group -- 2,300 people -- reported working at or visiting a bar or restaurant in the 14 days before testing positive.
"To date, we have not been provided with data showing that restaurants are the cause of the rise in positivity rates," Morley said.
But DuPage County Health Department officials said restaurants and bars are considered environments where transmission can occur at higher levels due to social gatherings indoors without physical distancing, tighter spaces and the removing of masks for eating and drinking.
The health department also pointed to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that showed adults with COVID-19 were "approximately twice as likely as were control-participants to have reported dining at a restaurant in the 14 days before becoming ill."
"We know that being indoors, with people who you do not live with, for longer periods of time, and without masks and speaking in close proximity and releasing droplets contribute to the transmission of COVID-19," a health department statement said.
Morley said he's confident that officials can create a plan that is "safe, acceptable and reasonable" while giving businesses a chance to survive the pandemic.
"We will continue to do our part to educate the public and business owners on the risks, restrictions, and preventive safety measures to combat the spread of the virus," Morley wrote. "We take the safety of our community seriously, as well as the responsibility we have to our business community."