St. Clair County director wants Illinois to allow dining rooms to reopen


ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said the county deserves to be rewarded for its low COVID positivity rate, which he said has dropped to 6.5 percent, well below the rest of Region 4.

“Six and a half percent is kind of a magic number in the state of Illinois. It means at that point you can reopen, reopen bars and restaurants to inside dining; so we’re really marching toward that time so we can reopen again,” Kern said.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker praised the Metro East’s lower COVID positivity rate during a press conference Monday.

“The Metro East is coming down in its positivity rate,” Pritzker said. “We are rooting for them. I am prayerful and hopeful that they are getting there and we can remove the mitigations on them.”

Kern said the county has three routes to reopening indoor dining rooms.

“Either the other counties in the region that aren’t complying with the recommendations would start to comply and their numbers would reduce, or perhaps our numbers get low enough we are able to pull the rest of the region below 6.5 percent that we get the okay of the state,” he said.

The other option is asking the state to not include St. Clair County in Region 4 and allowing them to lift some restrictions.

“We know things are working, we know the restrictions are working, now we’re going to try to ask the state to see if they could help us reopen,” he said. “We are going to try to make the case that since St. Clair County is abiding by the recommendations of the state and they’re working, that we’ve got 5 days now below the 6.5 percent level, perhaps St. Clair County can secede from Region 4 and the state could let our businesses reopen.”

There’s no date for wen a decision could be made, but Bennie’s Pizza Owner Bennie Parr said he is looking forward to welcoming customers inside his establishment again and is concerned for restaurants as cooler months approach.

“If there’s no indoor seating or outdoor seating, then we’re kind of going to be in a bad spot,” Parr said. “All the businesses need this. I’m worried about how many businesses we’re going to lose.”

Parr said he is also meeting with Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert to discuss options for eateries as winter approaches.

“Not knowing what the rules are going to be yet, we’re just kind of taking a chance but at least we’re more prepared and we’ll have a better idea of what direction will go,” he said.

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