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Some Business Owners Recoil At Warning That New Mitigations On Indoor Dining Could Be Coming Amid COVID-19 Spike In Suburban Cook County

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- This Easter weekend, business owners are upset about more COVID-19 mitigations that could come this week.

Those in suburban Cook County are now renewing calls for data and vaccine eligibility.

As CBS 2's Steven Graves reported Sunday night, Cook County health officials said this weekend that they were "extremely" concerned with a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, and said new mitigations on indoor dining could come down in days.

Business owners have been left feeling like unjustified targets.

The owner of Oak Park Brewing Co. just has two simple questions.

"Where does it end?" said Jim Cozzens. "When are we going to just be allowed to do what we're supposed to be doing?"

Cozzens' bar and restaurant just opened days ago at 155 S. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park. The indoor dining capacity is already limited to 50 percent because of COVID-19, and his outdoor space is not even set up.

Right now, any customer traffic is critical.

"The public is probably sick about hearing about how we're on the edge, but at the same time, it doesn't change the fact that there's going to be a very serious problem," Cozzens said.

Concern comes as he and others in suburban Cook County are under a new warning.

"People are out and about, and some people are better about wearing their masks than others, and so we may very well have to clamp down in a matter of days," Cook County Senior Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Rubin said this weekend.

Health leaders said they have seen a sharp increase in COVID cases with people in their 20s to 50s. The average is 600 cases a day now up from 400 last week.

In response, a capacity cap on indoor gatherings and a limit on spectator events could be looming. And yes, so could a ban on indoor dining.

"The data has shown up until now that outside activities are not generally the major driver," Rubin said.

But Cozzens said, "I haven't seen a lot of data that suggests that restaurants are drivers."

The CBS 2 Investigators looked into that claim in January. We found Illinois' positivity rate rose during a three-month indoor dining ban.

The state maintained that it still posed a risk as people from different households gathered in a space.

But if it's such a risk, Cozzens said, "Then why aren't we important enough to be vaccinated earlier?"

It was not until days ago that restaurant workers in Cook County and even Chicago became eligible for the vaccine.

There has since been a push in the city to prioritize the up to 75,000 restaurant employees who are in the mix with millions of people.

But Cozzens just hopes the threat of more mitigations stays just that - a threat.

It's important to note Cook County's top doc said indoor dining is just a fraction of the problem. She insists more vaccine is coming in, but masks and social distancing are still vital.

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