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'Either shut it down, or don't': Local business owner says restaurants and bars shouldn't be only ones making changes in Whiteside County, Region One

Through contact tracing, Whiteside County Health Department officials say they're noticing a more significant uptick in COVID-19 cases in private gatherings.

ROCK FALLS, Illinois — Starting Saturday, restaurants and bars in Illinois' Region One will be restricted to outside dining, carry-out, drive-thru and delivery only. It's part of the Restore Illinois Resurgence plan, as multiple counties in Northwest Illinois are seeing an increased positivity rate and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. 

The owner of Candlelight Inn, Matt Prescott, says he's frustrated with the new state rule. He understands the mitigation strategies are meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, but he says small businesses like his shouldn't be the only ones making changes.

"They're picking on us and I don't like that," Prescott says. "They're picking on the little guy because they feel like we can't fight. They're not picking on the guy that owns the $100 million casino because he can fight... either shut it (all) down, or don't." 

Now Prescott says he's forced to lay off 15 of his Rock Falls workers. 

"When it's 47 degrees, who's going dine out," Prescott says. "To open four tables, and have a server and bartender to have possibly no service, there's no logic."

Whiteside County Health officials say while coronavirus cases are spreading everywhere, they've traced more cases to private gatherings, like weddings, backyard barbecues and movie nights, rather than public places like restaurants, bars and school. 

"If you don't live with those individuals, you still need to keep your distance and mask when you can," ERC Cory Law says. "Those (gatherings) are just as risky because you're spending a lot of time with those people in close contact."

The positivity rate in Region One will be monitored over the next two weeks, and if it doesn't fall to 6.5 percent for three days in a row, mitigation efforts will continue until it does. In the event that the positivity rate skyrockets, stricter mitigation efforts could be implemented.