Mayor Lightfoot Threatens To Close Parks, Lakefront If Chicagoans Ignore ‘Stay-At-Home’ Order

Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a City Council meeting
Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a City Council meeting on June 12, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a City Council meeting
Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a City Council meeting on June 12, 2019. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Mayor Lightfoot Threatens To Close Parks, Lakefront If Chicagoans Ignore ‘Stay-At-Home’ Order

Chicagoans who don’t comply with Illinois’ “stay-at-home” order to stem the spread of COVID-19 could now face fines up to $500 or even arrest, the city’s top cop said Wednesday.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also threatened to shut down city parks and the Lakefront if people continue to gather there to do things like play soccer and basketball or go on long runs and bike rides.

“The public health orders that have been given by the governor, by the mayor, and by the Chicago health department are not advisory,” Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck said at a press conference. “They are a legal mandate and violation of this legal mandate is a misdemeanor. If you violate it you are subject to a citation.”

Lightfoot’s administration says Chicagoans are largely obeying Gov. JB Pritzker’s order, issued last week. But she says some are not. It requires people to avoid leaving their homes except for essential trips, such as for food, gas or medical visits.

Chicagoans still gather along the lakefront
Chicago’s lakefront remains crowded on March 25, in spite of social distancing orders by both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

The “stay-at-home” order does allow people to go outside for exercise. But Michael Kelly, superintendent of the Chicago Park District, said people need to be social distancing when they do — which requires them to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

“This is not a time for contact sports,” Kelly said. “No soccer. No basketball games. If you have to play basketball, play by yourself with your own ball.”

Temperatures Wednesday reached the mid-50s with lots of sunshine — a fact not lost on Chicago’s public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady.

“The chance of a contact and a fleeting way passing each other is not a significant risk, but the issue is when the Lakefront looks like a Saturday in July,” Arwady said.

People exercise along running trails in Chicago parks
Crowds exercise along the paths at North Beach on March 25. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Arwady took note of a new “social distancing scorecard” put together by a company called Unacast, in which Illinois got an A for people reducing their travel and movement by 40%. The study looked at cell phone GPS data to determine whether people are moving around less than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am not OK with 40%,” Arwady said. “I need Chicago at an A++, maybe an A+++.”

Arwady said because there is no treatment or vaccine, people need to reduce their movement much more drastically for at least the next two to three weeks.

The mayor also reminded people that they still need to pay for parking during the “stay-at-home” period. That’s despite her order to stop issuing parking tickets except when a violation threatens public safety.

“Just to be clear, it’s not free parking all over the city,” the mayor said.