Pritzker orders all IL bars, restaurants close starting Tuesday

(NEWS3) — As the global coronavirus outbreak continues to spread and raise concerns, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced more closures statewide due to the epidemic.

Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the Land of Lincoln to close by the end of business Monday through March 30.

“This is another hard step to take,” Pritzker said. “I know how difficult this will be on small businesses around the state. But we must do everything we can to safeguard the health of the citizens of Illinois, and that requires this urgent action. The time for persuasion and public appeals is over — the time for action is here. This is not a joke. No one is immune to this, and you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people of this state.”

Pritzker said the state is working closely with restaurant owners and food delivery services to ensure kitchens can safely remain open to continue food delivery and put in place drive-thru and curbside pickup options for restaurants.

This announcement comes two days after Pritzker ordered all Illinois public and private schools close starting Tuesday through March 30 due to the pandemic. Since then, local restaurants stepped up to provide free meals to children while they are out of school.

Management at McAlister’s Deli in Macomb said the decision to shut down dine-in for Illinois restaurants and bars will not impact the free lunches they will offer to area children. A store manager told NEWS3, parents can pick up the meals by going through the drive-thru.

In addition to other cancellations, Pritzker said all public or private events that are estimated to have 250 or more people should be canceled or postponed until May 1.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said the latest number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois stands at 93. That number jumped from Saturday, when the total number of cases was 64. Illinois coronavirus cases reported were in the counties of Champaign, Clinton, Sangamon, Whiteside, Winnebago, Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, St. Clair and Woodford counties, according to IDPH.

“We are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases increase exponentially and in more locations across Illinois,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.  “At this point, it is best to assume that the coronavirus is circulating in your community and you should take the same precautions when interacting with other people that you would when interacting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  This may seem like an extreme step, but this is how we reduce the number of new cases and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.”

No deaths have occurred in Illinois linked to the coronavirus at this time.