Will County officials report 'many' complaints of COVID-19 rules violations

Health department received many complaints of unworn masks at bars, restaurants

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Will County health officials said they are receiving “many” complaints of violations of the new restrictions recently implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sue Olenek, executive director of the Will County Health Department, told members of the Will County Board Public Health and Safety Committee during a virtual meeting Wednesday about the uptick in complaints.

She said just from last weekend, she’d received many calls and emails of possible violations, including a video of patrons inside a local bar where people were not wearing face coverings.

“We have an enforcement process,” she said. “We have a complaint process, and we’re working through all of those as we speak.”

These complaints came after the Illinois Department of Public Health implemented additional restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties, which include the banning of indoor service at bars and restaurants.

State officials added the new restrictions because of the region’s high COVID-19 test positivity rate, which stood at 8.8% as of Wednesday, according to the IDPH.

The WCHD’s environmental health division investigates complaints it receives from its COVID-19 hotline, spokesman Steve Brandy said.

This includes an in-person visit from a department employee to inform the establishment of proper procedures.

If the establishment does not comply, it might be necessary for the health department to enlist law enforcement to ensure compliance.

Brandy said the health department had received nearly 200 complaints of COVID-19 violations around the county as of late last week, but that number has gone up since the new mitigation rules went into effect.

Olenek also told County Board members that local contact tracers are finding the “largest problem” they were hearing about was many people congregating at bars and restaurants without face coverings.

“I know it seems punitive to some people, but those bar owners also had the opportunity, prior to the restrictions, to ask people to wear masks, unless they were drinking,” she said.

This week, Olenek wrote a letter to local residents, business owners and officials urging them to do their part to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We all want to get back to our normal lives, but there is still too much risk,” she wrote. “This is a time to think of others.”

Olenek asked the public to report any violations to the health department’s COVID-19 hotline at 815-740-8977 or submit a written complaint to info@willcountyhealth.org.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.