Chicago Officials Defend Decision to Proceed With NYE Fireworks Show Amid COVID Surge

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As Chicago prepares to host its largest New Year’s fireworks display ever, city officials are defending the decision to carry on with the show amid a rapid rise in COVID cases, saying that the outdoor setting of the show and other factors will help to keep residents safe should they choose to join in on the celebrations.

During an OEMC press conference on Wednesday, both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that officials have taken every factor into consideration when planning out the large fireworks display, and that they believe strongly that residents can stay safe while enjoying the show.

“Historically, we’ve seen people gather around the holidays at some level, regardless of the guidance that is given,” Arwady said. “I would much rather have people outside than inside if they are going to be gathering, and the idea of having done what we’ve done to space some of that out makes sense. Having something available to watch on TV at home gives some incentive to people (to stay home).”

According to officials, the 1.5-mile long display will be synchronized to music at eight different sites along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River starting at midnight, and will air live on television for those who don’t want to venture out into the cold to celebrate.

Health officials say that the scope of the celebration, stretched out for more than a mile, was a deliberate decision to encourage social distancing among celebrants.

“Not only are the fireworks celebrations outdoors, but there’s been a lot of work to spread them out along the river and along the lake, giving people the opportunity to celebrate in as safe a way as they can,” Arwady said.

Lightfoot echoed those sentiments, saying that city officials would certainly have canceled any large indoor celebration, but that the spread-out outdoor party will be much safer.

“Since it’s outdoors and since we’re spacing people out, we have confidence that we are going to minimize and mitigate,” she said.

Lightfoot urged visitors to “follow the public health guidance” when attending the celebration in the city, and Arwady urged residents to wear masks and to socially distance wherever possible.

Free train service on both the CTA and Metra will be available between 10 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Saturday to help partygoers get home safely. Pace will also offer free bus service in the suburbs, according to officials.

Masks are required on all trains and buses under current federal mandates.

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