COVID-19 restrictions relaxed in Will, Kankakee counties

Ban on indoor restaurant, bar service lifted in region

State officials relaxed restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in Will and Kankakee counties on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health made the announcement in a news release, which most notably means limited indoor service at bars and restaurants is allowed.

“However, this does not mean we can let our guard down,” IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said in the release. “We must continue to practice actions to protect ourselves from the virus – wear our masks, avoid large gatherings, and get the vaccine when it is our turn.”

The South Suburban Region, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, met the requisite decline in its rolling average COVID-19 test positivity rate and had adequate available hospital beds.

Due to the improving metrics, the region went from the most stringent mitigations, referred to as Tier 3, to Tier 1 which allows for indoor food service limited to the lesser of 25 guests of 25% capacity per room. Bars and restaurants must also close at 11 p.m.

Restaurant owners, public officials and residents have routinely criticized Gov. JB Pritzker for the ban. Many establishments continued to offer indoor service throughout the fall and winter, even as infections began to spike.

But the COVID-19 test positivity rate and hospital bed capacity in the South Suburban Region have improved significantly since the fall.

The region had been one of only two remaining regions in the state which were still operating under the most stringent public health mitigations as of Wednesday.

The relaxation of restrictions also allows for an increased capacity at retail shops and health clubs and the resumption of organized recreational activities.

The IDPH tweaked the requirements to relax restrictions this week which helped the region because it was not meeting the needed sustained decrease in COVID-19 hospital patients. The state said it will enhance staffing at hospitals and made the change to allow regions to see fewer mitigations, especially in light of other improving data points.

For the full list of mitigations in Tier 1, visit dph.illinois.gov.

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.