While many businesses are being allowed to reopen and with attractions like Navy Pier and the Lakefront Trail following suit, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot warns that city residents shouldn’t expect to see playgrounds and beaches open any time soon.
On Monday, the city announced that it would move forward into Phase Four of its reopening plan amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but beaches and playgrounds are not among the locations that will be allowed to reopen at this time.
“We’re still a ways away from that,” Lightfoot said during a Monday press conference. “I drive around the city, and I see children playing on playgrounds, but they’re still closed and they’re going to be closed for the foreseeable future.”
Even though the Lakefront Trail has reopened as of Monday, residents are still not allowed to visit city beaches either, and Chicago Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady says that it could still be at least several weeks until a decision is made to allow limited usage of beaches.
“Only today is the lakefront officially open, and we want to see how that goes,” she said. “I think we’ll be looking ahead through the Fourth of July, and then at that point, we can really be doing some assessment. When people do go to the beach, it will be very important that social distancing can happen, which means not having crowds.”
Under Phase Four of Illinois’ phased reopening plan, gatherings of 50 or fewer people are allowed, but city officials are still having conversations about the safest way to potentially allow waterfront recreation, or for children to begin to use playground equipment.
“We have very robust discussions about each of those, and we meet on a regular basis to determine where we are and what the future looks like,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve been talking about beaches and swimming pools and splash pools for some time, but based upon healthcare guidance, we’re just not there yet.”
City officials did say that Phase Four regulations are “not static,” meaning that some places could potentially loosen restrictions even without moving into Phase Five of the city plan. Beaches are among those locations that could potentially be impacted, but Arwady warned that residents will have to be patient with reopening of beaches and pools.
“Where we think about pools and beaches, the water itself is not a concern for COVID spread,” she said. “The risk is that people who breathe on each other have the ability to spread the virus. We’ve been having conversations and seeing what people are doing in relation to this. Unless we get into a heat emergency, we don’t have a plan to have pools open, and beaches are not open yet, but we will be watching carefully.”
City officials did express some optimism that reopening could still occur this summer, as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations in the city have continued to decline in recent weeks.
“Our hope is that it will be coming, and the way we get there is to see cases continue coming down, and to do that we need people doing what they need to be doing,” Arwady said.