JOLIET, Ill. — Stricter coronavirus restrictions took effect in Kankakee, Will, DuPage and Kane counties Wednesday as a second wave of COVID-19 infections continues across Illinois.
So-called “Tier 2” mitigations mostly affecting the restaurant and bar industry went into effect for a large portion of Chicago’s suburbs, including limits on social groups to 10 people or less and a cap on the number of people seated together at six. This is in addition to measures in place across the state, including a ban on indoor dining.
These new mitigations come into place as the state set records for Covid hospitalizations and cases Wednesday, while deaths spiked to a level not seen since late May.
Two young women who live and work in Will County started a social media campaign to push back against those tighter restrictions, hoping to save restaurants and bars in the area.
Co-organizer Michelle Lee said the goal of a peaceful march scheduled for Sunday is to give businesses “courage to stay open,” while bringing attention to those who are suffering as a result of Covid restrictions.
“I felt like somebody needed to step up and do something,” co-organizer Chrissy Laage said. “There’s way too many people out here struggling with unemployment, and a lot of these businesses are closing down and they have families.”
It’s no question the virus has been hard on businesses and the public. Governor JB Pritzker said a recent surge in cases has been the worst the collar counties have seen to date.
The march for the restaurants and bars will begin Sunday afternoon at Fireman Ted’s Bar and Grill in Joliet, where Ted Peszynski is the owner.
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Peszynski said he opened on March 16 of this year, and had to close five hours later because of the original stay-at-home order. He’s had to shut down once more, but says this time he just can’t do it.
“Just so people know this isn’t an anti-government march,” Peszynski said. “My employees need to work, I have several employees with children; the other ones have house payments, car payments, bills to pay and they come to work because they want to and not because I make them.”
Some mayors and city councils are refusing to enforce the ban on indoor dining. The mayor of Naperville has not gone that far but did send a letter to Pritzker urging him to rethink the ban. As of now, that is something the governor has not been willing to do.
For march co-organizer Michelle Lee, the message is simple: “we have the right to choose for ourselves what we are afraid of and not to be dictated by the state or anybody.”