Gov. J.B. Pritzker today tightened the state’s rules about wearing masks in restaurants to specifiy that customers must wear a mask when interacting with staff at a bar or restaurant.

Pritzker said the measure was needed to be able to slow the rate of infection across the state and still keep businesses open.

“This new requirement asks a little bit more of our residents dining out,” Pritzker said in a social media post, “to protect their health and safety and that of our frontline hospitality workers.”

A news release from the state added, “Face coverings must be worn over the nose and mouth when patrons are approached and served by staff, including but not limited to when employees take patrons orders, deliver food and beverages and service tables.”

The rules apply to all businesses with food service areas — including indoor recreational facilities, museums and entertainment venues.

“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,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Face coverings should be worn in any situation where we are interacting with those outside of our immediate circles.”

Previous guidelines required people to wear a mask on restaurant premises except while eating and drinking, but didn’t specifically address interactions with servers.

“The state’s updated guidelines for face coverings reinforce the message our Association has been driving home for months — ‘Covered Faces Keep Open Places,’” said Sam Toia, President & CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “Face coverings will protect both diners and team members during this critical time. If we want to stay on a steady path with reopening, it is up to every individual to work collectively toward this common goal.”

The state has also imposed new restrictions on restaurants and bars in Kankakee and Will counties because of rising coronavirus case rates there that have reached 8% for the past three days. Starting Wednesday they can’t offer indoor service and must seat all patrons outside.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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