Starting Friday, October 23, the Forest Preserve will limit the size of outdoor gatherings as required by state-mandated COVID-19 measures and also require all program participants and facility visitors to wear masks.
Masks will be required for all in-person, indoor and outdoor program participants, with the exception of those younger than 2 years old and those with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing one, per state guidelines.
"We are implementing the face covering requirement for the protection of program participants and our staff," said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve's chief operating officer.
On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a return to the same COVID-19 mitigation measures that were last implemented for Region 7 in August due to the positivity rate being higher than 8 percent for three consecutive days. The mitigation measures go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
One of the mitigation measures reduces the maximum size of outdoor events and gatherings including picnics, programs and field trips from 50 to 25 people. The 25-person limit on outdoor gatherings will remain in place in Will County forest preserves through the end of 2020, even if the state-mandated mitigations are lifted.
The face mask requirement for program participants and facility visitors will remain in place until further notice.
"Any change to our approach will be based on the guidance of health officials," Schultz said.
Measures taken earlier this year by the Forest Preserve to keep building capacities at 25 percent or lower and indoor programs at 10 people or less will remain in place.
While the size of gatherings has been reduced, dog parks, preserves, trails, parking lots and latrines remain open. However, water fountains have been closed for the winter season.
Throughout the pandemic, the Forest Preserve has been urging everyone to abide by advice from health experts to:
Wear masks outdoors if you can't maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from others. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds. Bring hand sanitizer with you if you can't wash your hands. Use disinfecting wipes on surfaces that may have been touched by others. Choose to visit outdoor recreational sites that are less crowded or go at a time when there will be fewer people at the same location. Stay home if you feel sick.
For more information on COVID-19 in Will County, visit the Will County Health Department's website.
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