Gov. JB Pritzker speaks in Ottawa Thursday, warning that rising COVID-19 infection rates could force all of Region 2 in central Illinois to return to economic restrictions.

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker traveled Thursday to two of the four counties in Illinois that were in danger of having to reimpose economic restrictions because of rising COVID-19 numbers, warning that bars, restaurants and other businesses could be forced to close again if people don’t follow public health guidelines. On Friday, the state announced the list of counties had grown to 11.

The four original counties at the warning level on Thursday were Adams, LaSalle, Peoria and Randolph. As of the Friday afternoon, the state said the list was now comprised of Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo, Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair and White.

“As much as I’d like to, this virus isn’t something that we can wish away,” Pritzker said at the event Thursday in Peoria. “So, we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people that we love.”

All 102 counties in Illinois are currently in Phase 4 of the reopening plan, which means businesses are allowed to operate within public health guidelines such as capacity limits and face mask requirements and gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.

Individual regions, however, can be forced to reimpose several restrictions seen in previous phases of the reopening plan. A county enters a warning level when it experiences an increase in two or more COVID-19 risk indicators from the state’s COVID-19 Resurgence Mitigation plan. Two of the indicators are increasing positivity rates for seven out of 10 days and having a seven-day sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 or a decrease to 20 percent capacity of intensive care unit beds.

Pritzker was joined at the Peoria event by local legislators, including Democratic Sen. David Koehler, who said he was alarmed by reports about public behavior that he’d received from two local businesses.

“Both of these establishments asked for patrons to wear masks when they come through the door,” he said. “They have reported that their employees have just been brutalized by some members of the public who think that it’s, you know, their right not to wear a mask. But you have to understand that these are businesses that are trying to protect the public, trying to protect their employees, and they need our help.”

Speaking later in the day Thursday in Ottawa, in LaSalle County, Pritzker delivered a similar message.

Both Peoria and LaSalle counties are in Region 2 of the state’s virus mitigation plan. Within that region, there have already been seven straight days of rising positivity rates and three straight days of rising hospitalizations.

Pritzker said the sources of the rising infection rates in Region 2 appear to be from shopping in big-box retail stores, house parties and workplaces.

If hospitalizations in the region continue to rise for four more days, Pritzker said, the region will see increased restrictions, which may be tailored locally around the sources of the increased spread.

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