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Gov. Pritzker Orders Illinois Bars, Restaurants Closed For Dining In Through March 30

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order closing all public and private schools in Illinois from March 17 through at least March 30.
File photo | Illinois Office of Communication and Information

Editor's Note: The story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close through March 30 to stem the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The order begins Monday at “close of business” for bars and restaurants, Pritzker said at a news conference in Chicago on Sunday.

The state is working with restaurant owners and food delivery services to see if kitchens can safely remain open for delivery and pick-up options. Drive-thru windows and curbside pick-up will remain open.

Pritzker called the action “unprecedented,” saying it was a difficult decision to make but an important one to safeguard public health.

“I know it will be hard on small businesses,” he said. “I tried to appeal to everyone’s good judgment to avoid bars and not to congregate, but unfortunately many did not take that seriously. ... The time for persuasion and public appeals is over. This is not a joke. No one is immune to this.”
Sam Toia, the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said public safety is “the No. 1 concern” for the organization, and that the order is necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus in the state. He said that the association is available to help employers navigate the immediate challenges presented by the two-week shutdown.

“The IRA will continue to advocate on behalf of employees and small businesses,” Toia said. “I know that the No. 1 concern of restaurateurs is that their employees get a paycheck.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning, Pritzker appeared with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to discuss state responses to COVID-19. Pritzker discussed the option of closing bars and restaurants two days before the St. Patrick’s Day celebration that is tradition in Chicago.

Illinois has 92 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 13 counties, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Health, said Sunday. Two of those cases were among women who live in St. Clair County.

Ezike said that the number of positive cases is increasing “exponentially” every day, and that Illinoisans should assume the virus is already in their communities.

Hana Muslic is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a reporting partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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