Mayor Lightfoot: Travelers From COVID-19 Hot Spots Are ‘Obligated’ To Self-Quarantine

Travelers walk through O’Hare International Airport in June. They are wearing masks.
Travelers walk through O'Hare International Airport in June. On July 2, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered anyone returning from states with surging coronavirus cases to quarantine for two weeks. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
Travelers walk through O’Hare International Airport in June. They are wearing masks.
Travelers walk through O'Hare International Airport in June. On July 2, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered anyone returning from states with surging coronavirus cases to quarantine for two weeks. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

Mayor Lightfoot: Travelers From COVID-19 Hot Spots Are ‘Obligated’ To Self-Quarantine

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said travelers coming to Chicago from states where COVID-19 is surging have an “obligation” to quarantine for 14 days.

But she stopped short of detailing how the city will issue fines to people who don’t comply.

“Are we going on planes and saying, ‘Hey, you just came from somewhere. You’ve got to do 14 days of quarantine?’ No,” Lightfoot said Monday.

“But … if you’re coming from a place where the cases are exploding, you have an obligation to be conscious of that fact and to protect yourself, but also protect your neighbors,” the mayor said.

At O’Hare on Monday, though, some travelers from Georgia, one of the states seeing a COVID-19 surge, didn’t see how they could quarantine for 14 days.

“It’s pretty inconvenient,” said Stacy Farah, who arrived in town for a four-day business trip. “I would have to literally quit my job.”

The public health order issued on Thursday took effect Monday and allows public health officials to slap out-of-compliance travelers with fines between $100 and $500 per day, up to $7,000.

Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said violators would most likely be identified during an investigation into an outbreak or through contact tracing.

“As we’re looking into [COVID-19] cases, if we identify people who have inadvertently spread [COVID-19] while they should’ve been under the quarantine order, at this point, that’s where we’d be looking to enforce,” Arwady said on Reset Monday.

Lightfoot reiterated a stance that she’s taken throughout the pandemic that she wants to “educate people into compliance” and noted the city has a marketing campaign in place to get the word out through airlines, hotels and other travel websites, like Airbnb.

The states identified in Chicago’s 14-day travel quarantine are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

“It’s not the time to take a vacation to those places if you can avoid it,” Arwady said.

WBEZ reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad contributed.

Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.