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Lakefront Trail
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Mayor Lightfoot is threatening to shutdown Chicago’s parks, while police begin issuing citations

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

In the days since Gov. J.B. Pritzker's "stay-at-home" order went into effect throughout Illinois, many—but not all—Chicagoans have been staying inside. The tone at Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Wednesday press conference was one of frustration, as some of the city's top officials underlined the importance of all city residents heeding the "stay-at-home" order and practicing social distancing.

Mayor Lightfoot expressed disappointment with the number of large gatherings she's witnessed in Chicago's parks and along the lakefront, including pickup basketball games on public courts and groups of runners on lakefront trails. She quickly issued an ultimatum: If Chicago residents continue to flout social-distancing guidelines, she's willing to shut down the city's parks and lakefront to force compliance, though only as a last resort. "While it is acceptable to leave your home to go on walks near your homes, and to purchase food and other essentials, you have to stay at home as much as possible," Mayor Lightfoot stressed.

Charlie Beck, the acting superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, offered some new details on local enforcement of the state's "stay-at-home" order, divulging that violators are subject to citations, a fine of up to $500 and—for repeat offenders—physical arrest. "The public health orders that have been given by the Governor, by the Mayor and the Chicago Health Department are not advisory—they are a legal mandate," Beck explained, adding that he's authorized officers to begin issuing citations.

The increase in enforcement of the "stay-at-home" order comes as Chicago's weather begins to warm up, tempting more residents to venture outside. Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady reiterated that maintaining social distancing in the coming weeks is crucial to "flattening the curve," relieving some of the pressure on the city's healthcare system. She referenced a report that used anonymous smartphone data to track he success of social distancing measures throughout the U.S.—Illinois got an "A" for achieving a 40 percent decrease in movement (denoting more people staying at home), but Dr. Arwady is pushing for a 75 percent decrease in movement.

While you certainly shouldn't stop going outside in the coming weeks, it's more important than ever to think carefully about how you can avoid contact with others while you're out and about. Chicago Park District superintendent Michael P. Kelly stated that "our parks are used for a brief respite," meaning that you should probably hold off on afternoons spent lounging on the grass, baseball games and group runs until after this crisis has passed.

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