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Illinois governor orders bars and restaurants to close; drive-thrus may remain open
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Illinois governor orders bars and restaurants to close; drive-thrus may remain open

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close for two weeks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Pritzker ordered that the shutdown run from the close of business Monday through March 30. The action came after crowds filled restaurants and bars around the state Saturday to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Sunday there were 93 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.

Pritzker said he tried last week to appeal to everyone's good judgment to stay home, to avoid bars, and not to congregate in crowds. He added that it's unfortunate many people didn't take that seriously.

"The time for persuasion and public appeals is over," the governor said. "This is not a joke. No one is immune to this."

Pritzker said drive-thrus will remain open and he's working with food services and restaurants so they can keep their kitchens open.

Gloria Fonseca, whose been a waitress at Taqueria La Soga since July, said the restaurant has been relatively slow for a Sunday — a day many families typically dine in. 

"By them not coming in (to) eat, that's other people's jobs. That's our jobs," Fonseca said. "We make more money when people come in, and they leave a tip when they dine in." 

However, Fonseca doesn't think Pritzker's order will "drastically" affect La Soga, since customers often pick up takeout orders and can see where their food is prepared. 

"When you work in food, you have to be clean, always. Regardless if there's a virus going around or not because sometimes people are allergic to some foods," she said. "People really shouldn't be scared to come in and eat, especially here. At La Soga, you can see what we're doing."

"We're going to make it work," Fonseca added. 

Employees at J's Peapod, in the same plaza as La Soga along Burnham Avenue, said the restaurant doesn't offer the option to dine-in, and added business hasn't been affected by the coronavirus. 

The Chinese restaurant offers carryout and delivery, the employees added. 

Next store at La Michoacana Compi, the Feikema family, of Munster, stopped in to enjoy homemade ice cream after learning of Pritzker's order to help support the Illinois business. 

"I was looking at my phone, and I saw what J.B. Pritzker passed that this morning, I'm like, 'We need to go,'" said Dirk Feikema. 

Feikema, who owns Feikema Plumbing and Sanitation in Munster, said he's nervous for his small business, too. 

"I also believe that, as it goes on longer, people won't do the extra stuff in their house. The mandatory stuff will still need to be done, but the extra stuff is going to slow up for the summer," he said. 

Feikema added he bought additional cases of latex gloves last week to protect his employees when they enter houses. 

Jill Feikema added they also go to J's Peapod and have visited La Michoacana a few times.

Though the order is in effect for two weeks, Feikma said she believes it's going to be much longer. 

"This is going to be a year. It's going to be a long, long time, and people don't get that — it's going to be a really long time," Jill Feikema said. 

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said he's working with state and local officials to help restaurants and their employees during the two-week shutdown.

"We want to protect the health of our customers and our team numbers," Toia said.

Toia said the organization will keep advocating for economic relief for restaurant employees and small businesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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South Lake County Reporter

Mary Freda is the South Lake County reporter at The Times. She is a proud Ball State graduate, where she studied news journalism and Spanish. You can reach Mary at mary.freda@nwi.com or 219-853-2563.

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