76 complaints submitted in DeKalb County for 37 bars, restaurants for non-compliance in 2 weeks

Since regional mitigations went into effect to stem COVID-19 resurgences, including the prohibition of indoor dining, the DeKalb County Health Department has received 76 complaints on 37 bars and restaurants in two weeks.

"While we know that restaurant and bar owners and their employees are adversely impacted by the current mitigation efforts, we must enforce these state mandates for the health and safety of our community," states county health department officials in a news release. "We would like to commend the restaurant/bar owners and their employees who are complying with the state’s mitigation efforts and we encourage everyone in the community to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The numbers were announced by the health department this week along with a renewed call for residents to follow public health guidelines as the geographical area designated Region 1 by the Illinois Department of Health has a positivity rate that keeps going the wrong way for reopening.

Health officials ask residents to remember to wear a face covering, wash your hands and watch your distance. They ask residents to keep your contacts limited to a small number, because the more people who gather together from different households, the higher risk of community spread of the viral respiratory disease.

If your children are in school, keep their play dates limited to those who are in their same class, public health officials urge. "And when eating with others not from your own household, keep six feet apart.

In order to reopen indoor dining, Region 1's positivity rate must fall to 6.5% for three days straight. To date, the region's rate has not dropped below 8%, and is climbing higher.

Region 1, which includes DeKalb, the Sauk Valley area and Rockford, reported a seven-day rolling test positivity rate of 10.3% on Thursday. Updated numbers are expected Friday.

From Oct. 3 through Oct. 13, 76 complaints involving 37 bar and restaurants were processed by local health department staff, according to a news release.

"When a complaint is received, a five-step enforcement procedure is initiated," the release states. "The first two steps focus on education and obtaining voluntary compliance. The third and fourth step both contain a written warning and a site visit. If compliance is not achieved in the first four steps, the food permit may be pulled and the case will be referred to the States Attorney’s Office for injunction of order to close."

According to information obtained by the Daily Chronicle through the Freedom of Information Act, from March to September, 3 businesses were given written warnings for non-compliance, and only one -- PJ's Courthouse Tavern in Sycamore -- made it to the third stage of warnings by the health department, with officials ordering patrons to disperse from the business, and then pulling PJ's food permit for three hours for continued non-compliance before the situation was remedied and they were allowed to reopen.

Current and potentially future restrictions

Region 1 is currently under select mitigation prescribed by the state. Suspension of in-person dining, according to the mitigation plan website, is a Tier 3 action. The 25 person or 25% of capacity limits for meeting is considered a Tier 1 action, and the region is considered to be in Tier 1.

Potential Tier 2 restrictions include reducing elective surgeries and procedures and limiting visitation at hospitals. Meetings and social events may be subject to greater limits, although specific numbers are not indicated. Indoor organized recreational activities, such as sports or gyms, may be suspended, as may in-person non-essential retail. Salons and other personal care establishments could be subject to a shutdown tied to an outbreak with possible broader mitigations.

Tier 3 could feature the suspension of all non-essential retail. All salon and personal care establishments could be suspended, as can outdoor recreational activities. Remote work may be instituted for all non-essential office workers and stricter limits may be placed on gatherings. Elective surgeries would be suspended under Tier 3.

The website is vague on when mitigations from the different tiers are implemented.

"If the positivity rate averages between 6.5 percent and 8 percent, IDPH will continue to monitor the region to determine if additional mitigations are needed," the website says. "If the positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8 percent after 14 days, more stringent mitigations may be applied to further reduce spread of the virus, which could include reducing capacity on organized group recreation, fitness or other activities supported by local contact tracing data and temporary suspension of certain activities."