An order that requires Chicagoans and visitors to self-quarantine if they came from a state with a large COVID-19 outbreak is more of an expectation than a threat, Commissioner of Public Health Allison Arwady said Friday.
The order, which was announced via a tweet from Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday afternoon, says violators could be fined between $100 and $500 per day, up to $7,000. It goes into effect on Monday, when many Chicagoans will be returning to the city after a long weekend.
But Arwady said on Friday that the city was not going to aggressively enforce the order and Chicago police haven’t been given instructions to do so.
“We do not have a plan to, for example, look for out-of-state license plates and pull them over,” Arwady said. “We do not have a plan to create a list of individuals who are traveling and try to track them down. Our goal is to get our message out strongly. That is really the most important thing, and to recognize that if they make that decision to travel there is an expectation to quarantine once they get to this side.”
The Chicago Department of Public Health said in a statement that the main goal is to discourage non-essential travel and ensure that people and businesses are aware of the risk for infection. CDPH and Chicago Police can issue fines to protect public health, the statement read.
Currently, the states included in the order are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Arwady said states could be removed if they get their outbreaks under control, and other states could be added if they develop a 7-day rolling average infection rate of greater than 15 cases per 100,000 residents.
She added that said anyone currently out of town in one of these states who returns by 12:01 a.m. Monday is not subjected to this order. However, she urged people who were in environments with high infection rates to avoid others with a high-risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Quarantine entails staying separated from other people, even those in the same household, and having food delivered, the order says. The only time somebody in quarantine should leave their home is to get tested or get medical care. And, even when doing that, they can’t use public transportation and must wear a face mask.
Arwady said the city has been working with the airlines to tell people who attempt to purchase tickets to Chicago about the quarantine. There will also be information on highway signs and fliers handed out at airports, she said.
As has been the case for most COVID-19 restrictions, there are exceptions for essential workers. Additionally, people who had to travel for work can still do so. But those people who travel for pleasure will not be able to work in the city for 14 days.
“We have tried to balance here to keep the really essential things going but send a strong message to individuals and to businesses that unless there is an essential need to travel, now is not the time to do it where outbreaks are not in control,” she said.