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COVID-19 restrictions staying put in Metro East area

"If our numbers are moving down, the hope is that they would remove us," said Bennie Parr, a St. Clair County business owner

BELLEVILLE, Illinois — No matter how you cut it, at Bennie's Pizza Pub in Belleville, owner Bennie Parr says the coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on his business.

"Business has been good. We've worked very, very hard at it. We've changed our motto," Parr said.

His customers haven't been able to dine inside for months because of COVID-19. As a result, Parr set up an outside eating area and offered curbside pickups to stay afloat.

"We're putting in the work. We're obeying all the rules, working sure that our customers follow the rules," Parr said.

In recent weeks, the COVID-19 positivity rate and case numbers in the St. Clair County area had been improving. That's why county leaders asked the state to impose lighter restrictions or exclude the county from the Metro East restrictions.

Bennie Parr had his fingers crossed.

"If the numbers are moving down, the hope is that they would remove us either from that group or lighten the stipulations on what we can and can't do," Parr said.

But, on Wednesday, those hopes were dashed. The Illinois Department of Public Health dismissed a St. Clair County exemption as a possibility.

"I can definitely much appreciate the work that's been done in St. Clair County," said Governor J.B. Pritzker said. "We're very, very close. We just need to work on the other counties in the area."

"I don't think they should be in a rush to open everything back up," said Belleville mom Brandy Roddy. "Just keep it like it is for a while to see if the numbers will continue to go back down."

In the meantime, Bennie Parr remains positive.

"I think we're in for the long haul because my 15 employees and I have the attitude of never give up," Parr said.

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