Mayor Orders Highland Park Gyms Closed To Slow Coronavirus Spread

Jonah Meadows

HIGHLAND PARK, IL — Mayor Nancy Rotering ordered the closure of indoor gyms, fitness centers and dance studios for 30 days starting Wednesday night, imposing tighter restrictions on local workout facilities than the statewide Tier 3 COVID-19 mitigation measures announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

"We must act now to save lives," Rotering said in a statement. "While everyone is tired of the restrictions and sacrifices, we are reaching a dangerous level of infection. For the next thirty days, let's work together to reduce contact and flatten the curve."

Last weekend, Highland Park reported 116 new cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. According to the Lake County Health Department, the seven-day rolling average incidence rate was 53.7 per 100,000 people in Highland Park and Highwood ZIP codes.

Public health officials say an incidence rate above 15 cases per 100,000 indicates school districts should shift to remote learning and is also the cut off for Chicago's emergency travel order.

In Illinois, the statewide incidence rate Tuesday was 99.5 cases per 100,000 residents. Any state with an incidence rate above 100 new cases per 100,000 people is considered to be in the "red zone" by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which recommended in July that public officials in such hot spots order the closure of bars and gyms and limit all gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

A graph of COVID-19 incidence in Highland Park and Highwood zip codes shows the number of new cases per 10,000 residents. The local rate remains lower than the county and state average. (Lake County Health Department)
A graph of COVID-19 incidence in Highland Park and Highwood zip codes shows the number of new cases per 10,000 residents. The local rate remains lower than the county and state average. (Lake County Health Department)

The mayor's supplemental order limits indoor and outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 10 people. This applies to both business and pleasure, including holiday parties, business meetings, religious ceremonies and any other events.

"It is critical that everyone recognize the increased burdens being placed on all of us by those choosing to gather with people from other households, whether in public places or in private homes," Rotering said.

According to the statewide Tier 3 restrictions that take effect Friday, gatherings at homes should be limited to members of the same household. Private clubs, country clubs, meeting rooms and other businesses may not host gatherings either.

RELATED: Entire State Moving To Tier 3: 'This Is Not A Stay-At-Home Order'

The statewide mitigations allow health and fitness centers to remain open to masked patrons at 25 percent capacity, as long as they keep their locker rooms closed, do not host group classes and require reservations.

But any in-person personal training will be forbidden at gyms in Highland Park. Operators of fitness establishments will still be able to teach remotely from their facilities, according to the mayor's order.

"We know this is not easy for recreational businesses and hope that we will collectively work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and get them back open swiftly," Rotering said.

Tuesday's order mark the second time the Highland Park mayor has ordered the closure of gyms ahead of state public health officials. After the city declared a COVID-19 state of emergency in March, the mayor issued a supplemental order shuttering health and recreational clubs, as well as theaters. Theaters and museums will be closed statewide Friday under new Tier 3 mitigations.

During the ongoing state of emergency, Rotering has the authority to order the closure of any business, to impose a curfew or to do anything else "reasonably necessary to address the civil emergency and protect life and property," according to city code.

Gyms, along with restaurants and bars, are among the locations with a heightened risk of spreading the coronavirus, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature.

The Highland Park Public Library building also closed to the public starting Tuesday.

The local closures comes in response to a continued surge in rates of new hospitalizations and coronavirus positivity in Region 9, made up of Lake and McHenry counties.

The region's seven day rolling average was 16.2 percent on Saturday, down from a record-high of 17.1 percent on the most recent day where data is available from the state. It marked the first day of a decline in the rate in nearly a month.

The mayor's order is due to remain in effect until at least Dec. 17, unless the City Council takes action to rescind it.

Read Mayor Nancy Rotering's complete Nov. 17 supplemental order:

This article originally appeared on the Highland Park Patch