Customers of bars and restaurants in Illinois must wear masks “during any interaction” with employees, whether indoors or outdoors. The new guideline went into effect on Aug. 26. 

On Aug. 25, Governor J. B. Pritzker announced this new rule, and a news release was issued by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

“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 patron orders, deliver food and beverages, and service tables,” according to the release.

Previously, customers in Illinois establishments were required to wear masks when leaving their table but were allowed to remove then once seated; now, they must wear them any time an employee approaches to interact with them, even while they’re seated.

In the news release, Pritzker said, “Illinois residents continue to take important steps to protect the safety of our loved ones and neighbors. However, due to a recent uptick in cases, we must take additional precautionary steps when we are out in public. Based on conversations and input from industry and business leaders, the State of Illinois is implementing updated guidelines which will allow restaurants and bars across the state to stay open while helping protect the health and safety of patrons and staff.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the IDPH, said in the release, “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. IDPH and DCEO are updating current guidance to make it clear that face coverings should be worn in any situation where we are interacting with those outside of our immediate circles. We will continue to adapt our guidelines and institute additional precautions to help protect all residents that make up our communities.”

Some regions of Illinois have seen additional mitigation efforts enforced because of high percent positivity rates. A ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants is being put into effect for Will and Kankakee counties, as the COVID-19 percent positive rate in that region has passed the threshold of eight percent for three days in a row as it did from Aug. 22 to 24.

Region 4 in the southern part of the state is also seeing additional mitigation, such as earlier closing times for bars and tighter limits on gatherings. Region 4 includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties.

Suburban Cook County is Region 10, and, while still below the criteria for additional mitigation, has seen a steady increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate, going from 4.1 percent on July 9 to 6.8 percent on Aug. 22.