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What does it actually mean to self-quarantine in Chicago?

We break down the city's guidelines.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

With the holiday season upon us, many Chicagoans are making tough decisions about winter travel plans. The city's latest emergency travel order—which includes 43 states as of Wednesday, November 10—leaves very few safe options. In fact, all of the states that surround Illinois are marked with "avoid travel" advisories, with Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana posting the most average daily cases of the pack. For months, city health officials have asked people traversing from at-risk states to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Chicago. But what does it actually mean to self-quarantine?

By local government standards, "quarantine means staying at a single designated home or dwelling for 14 days before doing any activities outside of the home or dwelling." If you live with roommates or family, it also means separating yourself from others as much as possible and checking yourself for symptoms regularly. Those are the basics, but the city goes into more detail about quarantine requirements, including:

  • You must not be in public or leave the house unless seeking medical care.
  • If you're seeking medical care or testing, you must wear a face covering and public transportation should not be used. 
  • Food and other necessities should be delivered to your home.
  • Separate from members of your household who didn't travel with you—that means separate bedrooms and bathrooms if possible.
  • You must self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop, you're allowed to leave the house to receive testing; after that, it's back home for a 14-day quarantine.

It's important to note, too, that even if you don't exhibit symptoms after a road trip through Wisconsin, "all travelers returning to Chicago from the designated states must follow the Order unless deemed an essential worker."

When the city first issued the Emergency Travel Order months ago, it instituted a daily $500 fine (up to $7,000) for those found in violation of the rules. Back in July, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press conference that officials had started ticketing people for "flagrantly" avoiding quarantine. But as of early last month, CBS Chicago reported that the city hadn't actually issued any fines to folks who didn't adhere to the order.

But regardless of whether or not you could get fined, it seems like common sense to lay low when you're returning to Chicago from another state—especially as cases surge across the country. And with many city-dwellers planning to travel home to see family this holiday season, there's never been a better time to play it safe.

Take a look at the city's latest Emergency Travel Order for up-to-date information about heading out of town or welcoming in company from out of state.

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