'It is kind of a gut punch': Suburban counties face ban on indoor dining until COVID-19 test rates drop

  • Illinois is suspending indoor dining at bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties on Friday until COVID-19 test rates decrease.

      Illinois is suspending indoor dining at bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties on Friday until COVID-19 test rates decrease. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Anthony, a bar patron at the Filling Station in St. Charles, jokes that he's taking "his last shot" Tuesday before restrictions are imposed on indoor bars and restaurants Friday.

      Anthony, a bar patron at the Filling Station in St. Charles, jokes that he's taking "his last shot" Tuesday before restrictions are imposed on indoor bars and restaurants Friday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Bartender Kristine Connelly pours a beer Tuesday at the Filling Station in St. Charles. Illinois is suspending indoor dining at bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties on Friday until COVID-19 test rates decrease.

      Bartender Kristine Connelly pours a beer Tuesday at the Filling Station in St. Charles. Illinois is suspending indoor dining at bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties on Friday until COVID-19 test rates decrease. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/21/2020 8:26 AM

DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties all face a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars as well as other restrictions beginning Friday to stem a resurgence of COVID-19.

The four counties, which make up two separate public health regions, have surpassed an 8% rate of positive results on COVID-19 tests for three days, which triggers temporary mitigations. Those also will include closing bars and restaurants at 11 p.m. and limiting gatherings to 25 people or less or 25% of capacity to reduce virus infections.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We are seeing a national surge of cases affecting every state around us in a dramatic way, and in Illinois we are seeing the numbers go up all across the state," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday in announcing the clampdown.

New cases of COVID-19 totaled 3,714 Tuesday, with the daily average spiking by nearly 1,100 compared to a week ago, and 41 additional deaths were reported.

Schools, workplaces, restaurants and bars are the top spreaders of COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"This isn't about punishing anybody," Pritzker said. "All the studies done on bars and restaurants show these are significant spreading locations."

Many bars and restaurants in the suburbs relied on outdoor dining this spring and summer to make ends meet, but the prospect of no meals inside as temperatures drop is daunting, restaurateurs say.

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"I haven't even processed it," said Peter Milligan, owner of the Filling Station in St. Charles. Their outdoor service was successful, "but now that it's colder ... I'm trying to formulate a plan right now. This caught me by surprise."

Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano in south Naperville is bracing to pivot to carryout for a third time this year. A statewide stay-at-home order was mandated this spring, and in late August Region 7 -- Will and Kankakee counties -- was hit with restrictions as test rates soared. Those restrictions were lifted after 3 weeks.

"It is kind of a gut punch," manager Jorge Guzman said, noting "the worst part" was when temporary layoffs were necessary previously. "But since this is the third go-round, our team is ready to make adjustments. We'll do just fine for now."

The restrictions will remain until each region's positivity rate decreases to 6.5% or lower for three consecutive days. If the rate is 8% or higher at the end of 14 days, tougher restrictions could be imposed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Downtown Wheaton Association Executive Director Elle Withall called the actions a "devastating blow" to small businesses even with innovations like heated tents that extend outdoor dining.

"It's getting harder and harder to think outside of the box to save our small businesses at this point," Withall said.

The state has about $220 million in Business Interruption Grants to help tide small businesses over. For information, go to illinois.gov/dceo.

"There is no easy fix for the effects of the virus on our economy and on our public health," Pritzker said. "We can and we will manage through this. We're Midwestern tough here in Illinois. We know how to deal with a crisis and we know how to take care of each other. We have to manage through this until the effective treatments and vaccines are fully tested and ready for distribution."

DuPage and Kane counties, which constitute Region 8, reached an average test positivity rate of 9% on Saturday after measuring 8.5% Friday and 8.4% Thursday, the IDPH noted Tuesday.

Will and Kankakee, Region 7, recorded an average 8.6% test positivity Saturday, after measuring 8.3% Friday and 8.2% Thursday.

Nearby counties are inching toward 8%, also. Suburban Cook County had a 7.1% average test positivity rate Saturday, while Lake and McHenry counties (Region 9) reached 7.5%.

Schools in the four counties are not affected by the latest restrictions.

"Our No. 1 goal is to make sure that we get our kids back into school -- as it is safe," Pritzker said.

But rising caseloads in the region caused the DuPage Regional Office of Education on Monday and Lake County Public Health Department on Tuesday to recommended districts shift to remote learning. It's ultimately up to the school districts.

Total infections in Illinois are at 350,875 with 9,277 deaths from the respiratory disease.

"The numbers through most of the region are trending in the wrong direction," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said.

The seven-day new-case average stands at 3,610 as of Tuesday compared to 2,516 from Oct. 5 to 11.

Illinois' COVID-19 test positivity rate rose to 5.5% based on a seven-day average. Labs processed 59,077 tests in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 6.9 million.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 was 2,261 as of Monday night. The number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals grew by 275 people a day on average, or 2,052 in the last week, compared to 1,777 between Oct. 6 and 12.

The state's recovery rate from the disease is 97%.

Aurora is in DuPage, Will and Kane counties. Mayor Richard Irvin urged residents to "recommit to the fierce urgency of now," in a statement.

"Wear your masks regularly, wash your hands regularly, watch your distance from those who are not in your household, and stop gathering in groups, especially in enclosed spaces," Irvin said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Katlyn Smith and Rick West contributed to this report.

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