The Illinois Department of Health on Feb. 2 announced suburban Cook County’s long-awaited return to Phase 4 of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan. The move would have meant greater flexibility with respect to indoor service at local bars and restaurants.
But that same day, the Cook County Department of Public Health threw cold water on that announcement, informing municipal leaders Tuesday afternoon that it was keeping in place certain mitigations – particularly related to indoor dining and drinking.
Indoor service at bars, restaurants, private clubs and country clubs will still be limited to 25 people or 25 percent of capacity, and food must be available at all times to offer indoor bar service.
Both indoor and outdoor tables are still limited to no more than six people and those tables need to be spaced six feet apart. Patrons seated at bars must also remain six feet apart.
Owner Scott Zimmer, right, talks with customers at the front of the restaurant on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at The Chew Chew on Burlington in Riverside, Ill. | Alex Rogals
The mitigations extend also to meetings and social events, which are limited to 25-percent capacity or 25 people and those events must follow indoor dining guidelines.
The county order also puts some additional limits on the number of people allowed in many businesses. Retail stores are limited to 40-percent capacity versus 50 percent under Phase 4. Indoor health and fitness centers are likewise limited to 40-percent capacity, instead of the 50 percent allowed in the full Phase 4 guidelines.Cook
In an email, Cook County Health told local officials that the additional mitigations “will be in effect until either rescinded or if we move back to a stricter tier via a new order. However, our CCDPH leadership has indicated that they will review our region metrics again in one incubation period (two weeks) to assess our current needs; including this Order as far as rescinding, adjusting, or extending its use in county.”
The order extends to most of suburban Cook County, except for those municipalities, like Oak Park, which have their own health departments.
It was unclear immediately whether or not Oak Park would follow the county’s lead with respect to the additional mitigations. The village’s interim health director, Joseph Terry, said Oak Park “generally aligns with Cook County, Skokie and Evanston because we’re all so close and intermingled” and that going against Cook County “is not the safest thing for us.”
Some local leaders expressed frustration with the county’s order, especially with respect to the bar and restaurant restrictions.
“For months we have relied on the experts advising the governor, even if his decisions were a detriment to our village’s stores, bars and restaurants,” said North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. “We finally get long-awaited relief, and now the county overrules it. Our businesses have been suffering significantly and another one or two weeks awaiting more statistics to reconsider lessening the restrictions is devastating and disappointing.”
Stacey Sheridan contributed to this report.