New COVID-19 restrictions causing controversy

Coronavirus Watch Illinois

FAIRFIELD, Ill. (WEHT)–A controversy brewing in Southern Illinois counties with new COVID-19 health guidelines in place. The Wayne County Sheriff tells Eyewitness News he is talking with the Illinois State’s Attorney to figure out how to enforce the new restrictions locally as cases surge in Region 5.

Many Southern Illinois residents say they are aggravated over Governor J.B. Pritzker’s new health guidelines. Those guidelines prohibit indoor dining in Region 5, which includes most the Southeastern corner of the state.

The restrictions are forcing restaurants to return to curbside pick up, which is causing lines at restaurants and some defiance aimed at the Governor.

“He would have to come in and physically pull me out to get me to close down, like, I’m not. I won’t,” explained Amanda Bell, owner of Barbwire Grill in Fairfield, Illinois. Bell said she’s not going to close her restaurant’s dining area. “If he’s not going to help, we aren’t going to listen.”

Bells said she will consider closing for indoor dining if Governor Pritzker pays her bills. Until then, it’s business as usual.

“I would shut down to help, but you can’t afford it. No one can afford it, and all the websites are messed up,” Bell said as she explained the hardship of applying for grants online. She couldn’t get her application to go through.

There are nearly $25 million available to help small businesses. Governor Pritzker expressed that businesses in Wayne County are being prioritized for these grants. They are among 20 counties facing tough business interruptions.

“These little mom and pop stores they aren’t going to survive being closed down,” said Shelley Vaughn, Illinois resident. Vaughn is afraid to lose more local businesses. “Fairfield has already lost three. We’ve already had three closings. I don’t think we can survive another hit like this.”

Some say they wish it was up to individuals to keep themselves safe rather than the state intervening impacting people’s livelihoods.

In addition to closing the indoor portion of restaurants and bar, social events are being limited to 25 guests or 25% of capacity.

Bars are being limited to outdoor service and they must close at 11.

These are not statewide restrictions, it’s only in affect for 20 Southeastern Illinois. This includes Saline, Wayne, Wabash, White, and Gallatin counties.

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(This story was originally published on October 22, 2020)

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