Metro East restaurants say COVID rising numbers is proof they’re not the problem

FOX Files

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – With St. Louis County just beginning its new shutdown, Illinois has had two weeks to see if that strategy is working. Restaurants in the Metro East say the numbers so far are proving them right.

Kim Gallagher of TR’s Place in Belleville said the shutdown is, “…clearly not working, so we’re clearly not the problem.” Gallagher, a single mother, added, “We’re doing our part and the numbers are still going up. It’s clear that that’s not where the problem is and in the meantime our employees are feeling the devastating effects of this.”

Gallagher’s restaurant and bar has been shut down for two weeks now on the inside while COVID numbers continue rising.

FOX 2 looked at Illinois Department of Public Health COVID numbers for Region 4, which includes St. Clair and Madison counties. Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered bars and restaurants to shut down on Oct. 30 when the positivity rate was 9.7 percent. Since then, positivity rates have increased every day, with the positivity rate now at 16.3 percent (as of Nov. 13, according to IDPH).

The owners of Reifschneider’s in St. Clair County have argued restaurants are the last places likely to spread disease because they’re used to taking health measures.

“You go to Lowe’s, you go to Home Depot, people are touching wrenches, tools, bringing them off the shelf, putting them back on the shelf. We’re not doing that here,” Dan Reifschneider said.

Many restaurant workers say they notice health measures getting worse at stores that aren’t forced to shut down, because they can’t keep up with their volume.

“I’ve noticed in a couple places I’ve visited they don’t even have people wiping down carts,” Chrissy Coca said. “They don’t people taking numbers of people coming in.”

Chrissy joined us via Zoom today, along with two of her colleagues fighting to survive.

Kristen Stucker, a single mother, said she wants to, “make sure my daughter has everything she needs and have a good Christmas this year and, as a single mom, it’s already hard enough.”

Many of the restaurant workers we spoke with today believe the shutdowns are not keeping people from being social, rather they’re pushing them to be social in ways that are not as safe as going to a restaurant.

“I try to hold back tears because it’s going to be awful,” Gallagher said.

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