Masks re­quired at ta­bles even when not eat­ing, guide­lines say

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@suntimes.com | @mitchtrout

Un­less a sip or a bite is go­ing in, the mask pretty much has to stay on.

Fac­ing a rise in coro­n­avirus cases statewide, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is­sued a new set of guide­lines for bars and restau­rants Tues­day that re­quire pa­trons to keep their masks over their mouths and noses dur­ing all in­ter­ac­tions with wait staff and other food-ser­vice work­ers.

That’s “in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to when em­ploy­ees take pa­trons’ or­ders, de­liver food and bev­er­ages and ser­vice ta­bles,” ac­cord­ing to the Illi­nois De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health.

The new guide­lines go into ef­fect Wed­nes­day and also ap­ply to other places that serve food, in­clud­ing mu­se­ums, en­ter­tain­ment venues and “in­door recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties,” of­fi­cials said.

“It’s im­por­tant that we treat hos­pi­tal­ity em­ploy­ees just as you would in any re­tail store or es­tab­lish­ment,” Pritzker said at a news con­fer­ence in Joliet, part of the Will-Kanka­kee County re­gion that is fac­ing a full ban on in­door din­ing due to a rise in its COVID-19 test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate.

The new mask guide­lines ap­ply statewide to both in­door and out­door din­ing and bar ser­vice.

“This new re­quire­ment will help keep peo­ple safe while mov­ing the econ­omy for­ward,” the Demo­cratic gover­nor said.

Illi­nois Pub­lic Health Di­rec­tor Dr. Ngozi Ezike said “go­ing out for food and drinks should not be a rea­son or an ex­cuse to let our guards down in the fight against COVID-19.”

“To the peo­ple that say that face cov­er­ings don’t work, you’re just sim­ply wrong,” Ezike said. “It doesn’t mat­ter what video you saw on the in­ter­net or the fake head­line you read. Please know that face cov­er­ings do save lives, but they must be used in con­junc­tion with so­cial dis­tanc­ing and hand wash­ing.”

The state’s hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try was dec­i­mated by Pritzker’s stayat-home or­der for nearly three months start­ing in late March.

Since out­door bar and restau­rant ser­vice was rein­tro­duced with

Phase 3 of re­open­ing in late May, and lim­ited in­door ser­vice was al­lowed to re­sume with Phase 4 in late June, the state has re­quired restau­rant em­ploy­ees to wear face cov­er­ings when­ever com­ing within 6 feet of pa­trons.

While cus­tomers had to have a mask for en­try and mov­ing within the restau­rant — to the bath­room, for ex­am­ple — they pre­vi­ously weren’t re­quired to wear it while seated. Now, faces must be cov­ered at the ta­ble if restau­rant or bar work­ers are present.

Illi­nois Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Sam Toia said the up­dated guide­lines re­in­force his or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pan­demic mes­sage: “Cov­ered Faces Keep Open Places.”

“Face cov­er­ings will pro­tect both din­ers and team mem­bers dur­ing this crit­i­cal time,” Toia said. “If we want to stay on a steady path with re­open­ing, it is up to ev­ery in­di­vid­ual to work col­lec­tively to­ward this com­mon goal.”

Other Phase 4 reg­u­la­tions for bars and restau­rants are still in place for most of the state, ex­clud­ing Will and Kanka­kee coun­ties and down­state Metro East — which tem­po­rar­ily face tougher re­stric­tions. In the rest of the state, par­ties are lim­ited to 10 or less with ta­bles spaced 6 feet and stand­ing ar­eas lim­ited to 25% ca­pac­ity.

The state De­part­ment of Com­merce and Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity is pro­vid­ing new sig­nage for restau­rants to ad­ver­tise the new re­quire­ments.

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES FILE

Gen­eral man­ager Juan Be­cer­ril dis­penses hand san­i­tizer at Flat Top Grill in Evanston in May.

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