With the Chicago area set to see highest temperatures of the year so far, health officials say the warm weather comes with a dire warning: Stay at home.
Afternoon highs across the region were expected to climb between 75 and 80 degrees on Tuesday, marking the warmest day of the year so far. While it may be tempting to head outside to enjoy it, experts say venturing out and about could have disastrous consequences during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Please do not go congregate in the park,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference Monday, warning Illinois residents ahead of the warm weather. “It’s fine to walk outside of your home, but do not go meet people.”
Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through April 30 as coronavirus cases continue to spike statewide.
Officials reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 12,262 across Illinois since the pandemic began. An additional 33 COVID-29 deaths reported Monday brings Illinois' total number of fatalities to 307, authorities said.
Medical experts have said Illinois has not yet seen its peak of cases and advise not even going out to get groceries or medicine if at all possible, let alone gathering in crowds outside during warm weather. Should people ignore that recommendation, officials warned that the virus could spread further and the effects could last even longer.
“I assure you if people congregate tomorrow, we will set the state back in our fight against COVID-19,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said as a news conference Monday.
“It should be assumed that COVID-19 is occurring in every zip code in Illinois. We must always be disciplined to ensure that we remain safe, we must continue to stay home, and we must practice our social distancing," she continued.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the closure of the city's Lakefront Trail, surrounding beachs and parks as well as the 606 running trail to help prevent gatherings after seeing those areas become crowded on a nice day last month.
Police have begun ticketing groups of people gathered in public places as well in an effort to deter people from ignoring social distancing guidelines.