Rockford mayor, business leaders unite in call for face mask use, warn of increased enforcement

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford leaders and business associations stressed the importance of wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep the local economy open.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Chamber of Commerce President Einar Forsman, Winnebago County Health Department Director Dr. Sandra Martell, and Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President John Groh met at Anderson Gardens Thursday morning to reiterate to the public that the region needs residents to comply with wearing face masks in public to help keep local businesses open.

“This is not a political issue. This is, simply, a public health issue and an economic issue,” McNamara said. “We’re holding the line against COVID-19 [in Winnebago County]. Our hospitality sector wants and needs to stay open.”

Groh said there are currently 8,000 restaurant and hospitality workers unemployed in the Rockford region.

Gov. JB Pritzker has warned that any of Illinois’ 11 regions that see an increase of their rolling daily testing positivity rate over 8% will need to have Phase 4 restrictions rolled back, including shutting down indoor gatherings, which would affect restaurants, bars and hotels.

“Beginning today, we are stepping up our efforts to educate and bring awareness of doing simple things [washing hands and wearing face masks],” McNamara said. “We will respond to complaints about those individuals and businesses who are not wearing face coverings,” he warned.

McNamara said some businesses have expressed concern with their workers being yelled at by customers after asking them to wear face coverings.

Francesco’s general manager, Michelle Lamay, said it hasn’t been a problem at her restaurant, but managers will ask customers to mask up.

“We have a lot of management on-staff. The owners are always on-staff as well. So, if there was an issue, we would take matters into our own hands and just kindly ask that people do the right thing,” she said. “We’re not asking for too much. It’s a simple step. Just wear your mask.”

McNamara said business owners shouldn’t confront customers who give them a hard time.

“It’s not worth risking your physical well being to engage with an obstinate patron,” he said. “What I would do is, call the City of Rockford, call your local municipality and see if you can get assistance.”

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