Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered a passionate argument Saturday for residents to adhere to the state's social distancing and "stay-at-home" guidelines, even as the weather dramatically improves this weekend.
With temperatures expected to reach the 70s on both Saturday and Sunday, officials are informing residents that the state’s “stay-at-home” order will continue to be enforced, and that individuals should continue social distancing and avoiding gathering in large groups.
During a press conference Saturday, Lightfoot said that city officials had been made aware of at least six large-scale parties that were scheduled to be held this weekend, and that Chicago police will aggressively enforce the state's "stay-at-home" order while breaking up any potential gatherings.
"We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we have to, we will arrest you," she said. "Don’t make us treat you like a criminal, but if you act like a criminal and you violate the law and refuse to do what’s necessary to save lives in the middle of a pandemic, we will take you to jail. Period."
The state's "stay-at-home" order is a legal mandate, and Chicago police have the authority to issue citations and to arrest those who are not complying with the order.
"If you host a party, promote a party, or go to a party, we are not playing games. We mean business, and we will shut this down one way or another," she said. "The time for educating people into compliance is over. Don’t be stupid. We’re watching you, and we’re going to take decisive action."
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said that the department will continue to step up enforcement efforts as the city receives more reports of large gatherings in defiance of the order.
"This isn’t something CPD is going to take lightly," he said. "Staying at home means saving lives. Period. CPD will be on the lookout for gatherings large and small. If you are caught attending a party or congregating, you’re going to be asked to disperse."
In the month of April, the police department issued more than 4,600 dispersal orders for large gatherings, according to data released Friday. The department also reported 17 arrests and numerous citations for violations of the state's "stay-at-home" order.
Other officials statewide are also asking residents to remain vigilant in altering their behaviors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
“I know it’s been hard on everyone, but I’m encouraging everyone to do everything they can to keep everyone safe,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We’ve done a tremendous job in this state, and I thank everyone in this state for your support as we move forward.”
Although the state loosened some restrictions in the modified order, including opening some state parks and allowing golf courses to re-open, many parks and playgrounds remain closed, as do Chicago’s beaches along the lakefront.
Even though the state's mandate doesn't explicitly require residents to wear masks while exercising outdoors, Governor J.B. Pritzker reminded residents that with the improved weather they are likely to come within six feet of other residents while outdoors, and that wearing a facial covering may be a good idea for those interactions.
"If everybody does it, and everyone has a mask on, then you are protecting other people," he said. "I notice that people don’t feel like if they’re walking along the sidewalk don’t feel like they could wear a mask. You are going to be within six feet of someone walking toward you, so wearing a face covering is extraordinarily important."