Chicago will enter the third phase of its reopening plan amid the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday as planned even after protests, looting, vandalism and violence gripped the city for four consecutive days, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.
"After a lot of consultation and yes, a lot of prayer: we will reopen tomorrow and take this important next step as planned," she said at a news conference Tuesday, saying she had consulted with many business owners who told her they wanted to move forward.
"I heard that over and over again in neighborhoods that are hard hit for years, that they need a lifeline and they need it now," Lightfoot said. "I want to encourage our customers to shop locally... that's going to be critically important for them to survive."
"We want economic activity to resume peacefully in every neighborhood and we're doing everything we can to make sure that happens - but doing it safely and securely," she continued.
Monday marked the fourth night of protests in Chicago calling for justice after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd earlier in the week in an incident captured on cellphone video. Thousands of protesters joined demonstrations across the city, despite a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, meant to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
"While we continue to make progress, I am concerned we may see ourselves take a step backward down the line against COVID-19," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday, urging anyone who attended a protest or gathering to self-quarantine at home for 14 days if possible.
"That's because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus doesn't care about what's going on in the city," she continued, adding that COVID-19 still does not yet have a cure or effective treatment and "still takes every opportunity it can to spread."
Lightfoot echoed Arwady's concerns Tuesday and added that the vandalism and looting of businesses that took place across the city marked a major setback for businesses looking to reopen on Wednesday, many that have been closed since March as the pandemic raged on.
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"Of course I'm concerned about businesses all over the city who were preparing and saw the additional resources that they were putting in to opening up their businesses, community groups that were ready to start fully engaging with them," Lightfoot said Monday. "For many of those people, those resources and efforts were reduced to kindling or went down in flames."'
Lightfoot had previously announced on Thursday that Chicago would enter phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, days after the rest of Illinois moved forward with loosening restrictions meant to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Chicago's third phase of reopening is slated to allow several businesses to reopen with new guidelines and limitations, and small non-essential gatherings of up to 10 people. Some of the businesses allowed to reopen include restaurants for outdoor dining with appropriate social distancing and sanitary measures.
The number of coronavirus cases in Illinois surpassed 121,234 on Monday, state health officials said, with a death toll of 5,412 statewide.
In announcing a date for the city to enter the third phase of reopening, Lightfoot warned that she and other officials stood prepared to move backwards if reopening leads to another surge in COVID-19 cases.
"Let's be clear: under no circumstances should our move to phase three be confused with this crisis being over, because it's not," she said.