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State data: Estimated 1% of COVID-19 outbreaks came from restaurants

Illinois Restaurant Association CEO Sam Toia speaks to reporters in Chicago on Oct. 30. | Photo: BlueRoom Stream.

(The Center Square) – Restaurant owners from across Illinois say the closure orders being instituted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker will devastate small businesses, leaving thousands jobless even though the state found an estimated 1 percent of COVID-19 outbreaks came from restaurants.

The Illinois Restaurant Association said Friday in Chicago that its members were being singled out in the governor’s latest shutdown.

“Make no mistake, Illinois restaurants are in a moment of complete crisis,” said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

“Closing indoor dining means that the majority of restaurants will no longer be able to sustain their operations. Takeout, delivery and curbside pickup equate to only a small fraction of normal revenue,” Toia said.

“They are having painful conversations – again – with dedicated team members whom they will no longer be able to employ. And with no broad-based state or federal relief on the horizon, there seems to be no end in sight,” he added.

IRA board member Kevin Vaughn tabulated all of the outbreak information from a state list acquired by NBC 5 Chicago and found 400 cases were related to restaurants in Illinois out of 40,000 cases.

The list represents about 10% of all COVID-19 cases from March to September in Illinois.

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While many restaurants followed Pritzker’s orders in the spring, closing down and awaiting the state’s permission to reopen with heavy regulation, hundreds are now announcing they’ll defy the latest bans on indoor dining and capacity limits.

Toia said the association encouraged compliance with the governor’s orders. He said restaurants are asking for a seat at the table with Pritzker and others in crafting orders.

“Restaurants are here to serve, and the IRA stands ready to work with the Governor to collaborate on a more reasonable and pragmatic approach to mitigation that can give restaurants some hope that they can get through this,” he said.

Several restaurant challenges are making their way through the legal system in multiple counties.

Instead of filing a new challenge, Toia said the association decided against filing its own lawsuit over the restrictions because filing the court statements on existing cases in counties across Illinois was a better way to help restaurants statewide.

Toia said he would meet with Pritzker’s office some time in the first week of November.

In McHenry County, two judges have denied two separate lawsuits filed on behalf of McHenry County restaurants who were seeking a restraining order on Pritzker’s indoor dining ban.


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