Chicago's Lakefront, along with the Chicago Riverwalk and the 606 Trail, were all shut down Thursday as the city works to keep people from congregating during a statewide stay-at-home order, the city's mayor announced.
"What we must do now, together, is bend the curve of this disease," Lori Lightfoot said in an address Thursday afternoon, reprimanding those who violated the state order and congregated in public.
"Your conduct is posing a direct threat to our public health," she said, pleading for residents to "stay at home."
Officials called out the thousands of residents who were playing outdoor sports or gathering together along the lakefront.
"That is a very real and direct threat of the well-being of everyone in this city, and it has to stop," Chicago Parks CEO Michael Kelly said.
News of the closures first came out Thursday morning.
Ald. Harry Osterman, 48th Ward, reported the Lakefront Trail, parks, and beaches from Ardmore south were closed to public access beginning at 8 a.m.
"This order has been put in place to ensure social distancing between individuals and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19," Osterman wrote in a notice to residents. "This is a very serious health crisis we are in. I strongly ask you to follow this directive and stay off the lakefront."
Ald. Brian Hopkins and James Cappleman also announced the news, saying the closure would continue "until further notice."
The closures include "all fieldhouses, all playlots, all school playgrounds, the Chicago Riverwalk, and the 606 Trail," Cappleman said.
"These steps were taken to further limit COVID-19 infections due to projection rates that if this stricter stay-at-home order did not occur, we would have upward of 40,000 residents requiring hospitalization," he wrote. "This would decimate our healthcare system, leading to many deaths."
Lightfoot said Wednesday that she was considering such a move after thousands exited their homes during warmer temperatures.
"When we have masses of people out there as I just saw ... it's a problem," Lightfoot said. “We know what happens when we don't social distance."'
She noted, however, that her order does not mean people should be going out in groups in city neighborhoods either.
"This doesn't mean people should mass inland at other parks," Lightfoot said.
Chicago police said they plan on enforcing the 24-7 stay-at-home order rigorously, warning of citations and possibly even arrests for those found to be in violation.
"If you violate it, you are subject to a citation, a fine of up to $500 and if you continue to violate it, you will be subject to physical arrest," Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said.