The city of Chicago will no longer tolerate people congregating outside in public places, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said Wednesday in a joint press conference, laying out how police will enforce Illinois' stay-at-home order.
Read full statements from Lightfoot and Beck below detailing fines and potential arrest associated with the enforcement, as well as a warning to Chicago residents and the reason behind the immediate action.
CHICAGO MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT
I've called this press conference in order to update Chicago on the latest developments related to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as to provide a few important reminders for the days ahead.
First and foremost, I also want to speak specifically about Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. For the most part, Chicagoans have been doing well and maintaining safe distancing, but we are concerned with what we've seen in recent days, both indoors and outdoors.
We want to remind people of this critical guidance that is meant to keep them safe. As I said during my press conference earlier this week, if we see gatherings, we will shut them down, period. Folks, this situation is deadly serious. And we have to take it seriously, all of us, and we need you to take it seriously.
If we don't maintain the social distancing we need, we will lose ground that we've gained. Simple as that. And the longer we don't follow this order, the longer this crisis will last, the sicker people will get, and the harder the strain on our healthcare system. I personally been concerned about what I've seen in our parks, people playing basketball. And what I've seen along our lakefront, way too many people gathering like it's just another day. This is not just another day, and no day will be just another day and to worry on the other side of this virus, which is weeks away.
I understand people are frustrated at being stuck in our homes and anxious to get outside and move around. And you can do that, but you must do it in a way that is smart, that is maintaining social distance, and not congregating in other locations with lots of other people. That's where the danger lies. Now, Dr. Arwady will speak more on this in a moment. But what we know is this: In cities around the world, we've seen what happens when residents stay at home and maintain safe distancing versus when they do not. That is why we are reminding everyone that while it is acceptable to leave your homes to go on walks near your homes, and to purchase food and other essentials, you have to stay at home as much as possible. You cannot go on long bike rides, walks, runs along the lakefront where you're going to be congregating with lots of other people. The same applies to neighborhood parks, and particularly playgrounds. The playgrounds under Gov. Pritzker’s orders are shut down, folks. Please, you must abide by the order.
Under no circumstances are you allowed to congregate and do not let the warming weather let your guard slip, like today. Now, Supt. Beck will speak on this in a moment. But not only will our police and public safety officers be deployed to shut down large gatherings, if we have to, because you are not educating yourself into compliance. And if you are not abiding by these very clear but necessary stay-at-home orders, we will be forced to shut down our parks and the entire lakefront if people continue to flout the social distancing guidelines.
Now, let me be clear, that's the last thing that any of us want, and that's the last thing that I want to do as mayor, but make no mistake, if people don't take this in a serious way in which they must, I'm not going to hesitate to pull every lever at my disposal to force compliance if necessary. But let's not get to that point. We don't need to. Stay at home. Only go out for essentials. If you want to exercise, do it in a way that you are not congregating with other people. And that means you've got to adjust your thinking about what your normal patterns and routines are. Of course, but be smart, please. There's no magic wand for the solution. And when it comes to getting through this crisis and getting our lives back to normal, each of us has a role to play. Never before in my lifetime has the conduct of others affected the actual health and wellbeing of so many. We are all in this together. It's not just a quaint expression. It has meaning and resonance, like no other time in our life.
Now, in recent days, we've taken bold measures to expand our capacity to care for those impacted by COVID, allowing them to recover safely and to prevent the spread to others. By the end of this week, we will have expanded capacity to over 2,600 hotel rooms across the city, helping relieve pressure for our health and hospital systems. And again, I want to thank every single hospital, every single CEO and the staff who have stepped up to help in this time of need.
In that same spirit, I want to take this opportunity to call on Chicagoans, particularly those who have health care and medical training. We need you now more than ever. Please consider volunteering and other employment opportunities available and our website that chicago.gov/coronavirus. If you are a doctor or a nurse or a nurse's aide or somebody with healthcare training, maybe even a student who's at one of our community colleges, or one of our hospitals around the city, we need you. We need you to step up. Right now, in this time, we've got to have additional resources and volunteers. These volunteer and employment opportunities, as I said, include nurses, certified medical assistants, healthcare administrators and more. If you have training in any aspect of delivery of healthcare services, we need you. These personnel are critical to ensure that we have the healthcare resources needed to manage the surge of patients that we anticipate in the coming weeks. Please go here to chicago.gov/coronavirus, and we can set you up with training and help you staff one of the many different resources that we're bringing online.
Now, also, we want to make sure that people are getting as informed as possible. You can do so at chicago.gov/coronavirus. And I've been deeply moved by the outreach and support that we've seen from so many people over these past few weeks. Just this morning, I was at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, there were probably 15 people of all stripes from all over our city who stepped up to volunteer to pack up boxes of food for residents that are in need. Now, whether from nonprofits providing critical food assistance to companies like SitterCity, providing free childcare for our frontline workers, to our local hotels who have alleviated the strain on our hospitals by opening up space for individuals in isolation, or quarantine, all of these actions matter and make a huge difference. But we need more help in order to succeed in our mission to bend the curve and break this crisis.
Once again, those willing to volunteer, you can find opportunities online at online at chicago.gov/coronavirus. Finally, as always, I want to commend our incredible healthcare workers, first responders and other city employees and essential businesses for their sacrifice and their work. We know that this is very difficult on you personally and your families. But we are grateful for you and the work that you're doing to keep this city strong in this very challenging time. These people have been our true heroes during this fight.
INTERIM CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT SUPT. CHARLIE BECK
Good afternoon. And first, let me say it's an honor to work with Dr. Arwady and Mayor Lightfoot during a crisis. They are both crisis leaders and it's a privilege. Second, to the people of Chicago: The public health orders that have been given by the governor, by the mayor and by the Chicago Health Department are not advisory. They are a legal mandate, and violation of this legal mandate is a misdemeanor. It is a violation of the municipal code.
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. Whenever a new order, a new law, a new direction is put in place, there's three phases. There's the educational phase, there's the warning phase, and then there's the enforcement phase. The educational phase of these public health orders is over.
I called a meeting this morning with all of my chiefs and deputy chiefs. My direction to them was this: If people do not heed the warnings of our police department, to not congregate, to stay at home, if they at all possibly can, then we're going to start issuing citations. Not because we want to, but because we must. Because if we do not do this, Chicago is at risk. Your families are risk, the seniors in this city are at risk. And this is something that your police department has to do.
So beginning today, one warning. After that you will be cited. Please do not make us do that. We take no joy in it. But we feel that it is absolutely necessary for the health of this city.