With spring weather on the horizon in Illinois, officials are urging residents to avoid temptation with the state still under a stay-at-home order for several weeks.
So, can you go outside?
The answer is yes. There are restrictions, however, and there are risks.
Four of the next five days are expected to see above-average temperatures in the Chicago area, which could lead to a spike in outdoor activities for residents. And despite what could be a potentially soggy weekend, things look to get even warmer next week as highs look to reach in the 60s and near 70 degrees.
One week after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot shut down the city's lakefront, the Chicago Riverwalk and the 606 Trail due to high volumes of people congregating, she continued to caution those who wish to step out of their homes.
"We've always said that people can go outside," Lightfoot said. "People need to get fresh air. They can walk down the block or they're going to walk their dog. The issue isn't the exercise, the issue isn't getting outside, it's congregating. It's the congregating that spreads the virus, and that's what we have to clamp down on."
Chicago police have warned of citations of up to $500 and the potential for an arrest to those violating the state's stay-at-home order.
"We're at a time when education has been done," Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said Thursday. "And we need to make sure that we enforce the governor's order, which is a legal order. When people defy that order, they are in violation of the law and folks have to understand that there are consequences for that."
So what does the order allow you to do?
In Illinois, residents are still allowed to leave their homes for essential needs like:
- For health and safety: seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or medication or visiting a health care professional
- For necessary supplies and services: obtaining groceries and food, household consumer products, supplies they need to work from home, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences
- For outdoor activity: walking, hiking, running or biking – including going to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, except for playgrounds
- For certain types of work: Providing essential products and services at Essential Businesses or Operations or otherwise carrying out activities specifically permitted in the order, including Minimum Basic Operations
- To take care of others: Caring for or transporting a family member, friend or pet in another household
But officials want you to remember to practice social distancing if choose to go out.
With another 715 cases of coronavirus cases in Illinois, the state's total number of confirmed diagnoses rose to 7,695 on Thursday, health officials announced. Meanwhile, an additional 16 deaths in the last 24 hours lifted the total number of fatalities to 157.
With the newly confirmed cases, more than 60 of the state's 102 counties have now reported at least one confirmed case of the virus.
The state has been under a stay-at-home order for almost two weeks and Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday the order will continue until April 30.
"Here’s the thing: I’ve already taken virtually every action available to me to protect our residents and slow the spread," Pritzker said Thursday. "I’m telling you this because I want you to know that in terms of state action, we’ve nearly exhausted every avenue available to us. Make no mistake, my team and I are continuing to explore every possible option with our medical experts and scientists informing every call, but we can only do so much with policy alone. That’s because our strongest weapon against COVID-19 is you."
Both Pritzker and Lightfoot expect cases to peak this month. Lightfoot previously warned the Chicago could see upwards of 40,000 hospitalizations in the coming weeks and U.S. health experts worry Cook County could become one of the nation's next hotspots.
"Forty thousand hospitalizations. Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting," Lightfoot said. "That number will break our healthcare system... This will push our city to the brink."
Illinois saw its biggest one-day jump in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began Sunday, with 1,105 new cases.
Although the number of new cases reported in the days after has not reached as high, both Pritzker and Ezike said that is not an indication that cases have peaked.
Already, the state is bringing back online once-shuttered hospitals and working to prepare Chicago's McCormick Place convention center into an alternate care facility for patients with mild symptoms.