Gov. J.B. Pritzker focuses on bars as potential COVID-19 transmission hot spots when asked about possible rollback of reopening
Again facing questions about whether Illinois needs to scale back its reopening as COVID-19 cases inch up, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday sidestepped any discussion of imminent changes and shifted the focus to bars as potential hot spots for transmission of the new coronavirus.
As he has since introducing his five-phase “Restore Illinois” plan in early May, Pritzker said he continues to monitor the data closely and consult with public health officials and epidemiologists.
“I will not hesitate to reimpose some mitigations if we see our numbers moving upward,” Pritzker said at an unrelated event in Chicago. “My concern, again, is all about the health and safety of the people of the state of Illinois.”
Pritzker said he and health officials are watching the Southern and Western states where the virus is surging “and wondering, where could we or should we … turn the dimmer switch, as they say, on some of these items?”
Pritzker said it wasn’t as clear early on in the pandemic how easily the coronavirus could be transmitted at indoor bars when he was asked whether he’d again shut down indoor service at restaurants and bars, which resumed on a limited basis with the move to phase four of his plan on June 26,
“We had an idea, we imposed restrictions, but we didn’t have really enough data along the way,” Pritzker said. “The data is now in. And so that’s one of the things we look at.”
The governor said all of the industries that have reopened in phases over the past two months are continually reevaluated. “Everything that we did in phase two, phase three … are things that we would consider doing here in phase four to move backward if we needed to,” he said.
Pritzker noted that the largest share of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois has been among those ages 20 to 29 — with nearly 27,000 known cases as of Tuesday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
While the state initially targeted its messages about the dangers of the virus toward elderly residents and other people especially susceptible to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions, officials are now focusing on young adults, Pritzker said.
“Now we have people who are acting unsafely, going into these situations, as young people do, and giving it to each other,” he said.
While officials in states including Michigan, Minnesota and Louisiana have tied specific outbreaks to bars, Illinois health officials have not said whether they made any such connections. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the governor’s office did not respond immediately Tuesday to a request for comment.
The Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, which represents primarily independent bars and restaurants across the state, has been encouraging its members to closely follow requirements for face coverings, social distancing and other safety measures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Executive Director Daniel Clausner said.
Pritzker has made it clear that reopening could be reversed if COVID-19 is resurgent in Illinois, Clausner said.
“Open at a percentage (of capacity) is better than closed,” he said.
The number of new coronavirus cases in Illinois declined for the third straight day Tuesday, with state officials reporting 707 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19.
There were more than 900 cases per day for a five-day stretch late last week and early this week, cresting at 1,317 cases on Friday. Officials reported 954 cases Sunday and 883 on Monday.
Still, the seven-day average of new cases, which officials look at to smooth out day-to-day fluctuations in the data, reached four digits for the first time in more than a month.