CHICAGO (CBS) — Several Chicago aldermen say the lakefront — including its beaches, parks, and trails — is now closed to the public, less than a day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned she could shut it down if people didn’t stop gathering in large groups in defiance of the governor’s “stay at home” order during the coronavirus outbreak.
Aldermen also say The 606 trail and the Chicago Riverwalk are closed to the public.
In a letter to his constituents, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said the Lakefront Trail, parks, and beaches were closed effective at 8 a.m. Thursday. In a tweet, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said police would enforce the order by first issuing warnings, then fines of up to $500, and then making arrests of repeat violators.
Police and other city crews could be seen blocking off entrances to the lakefront Thursday morning. Some runners were still using the path after 8 a.m., but were not stopped by police.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said in a letter to his constituents that The 606 and the Chicago Riverwalk also are now closed to the public.
CBS 2 has spotted entrances to the Chicago Riverwalk have been closed and locked.
In a video posted on Facebook, Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said “People need to stay home.”
“We had a lot of people congregating around the parks, the lakefront path, The 606, the Riverwalk,” she said. “There will be no more congregating at the lakefront. No bike riding, no running. It will be enforced by police. You’ll get an order to disperse first, and then you will get a citation.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office did not comment on the reports the lakefront has been closed, instead saying she will address the issue at a 1 p.m. press conference.
On Wednesday, the mayor warned she might be forced to close the lakefront and the city’s parks, after seeing too many people gathering in large groups, in violation of the governor’s order to stay home, and banning gatherings of more than 10 people.
Lightfoot and Interim police Supt. Charlie Beck emphasized that the stay-at-home order is not a suggestion, and people cannot be grouping together in public.
“Stay at home. Only go out for essentials. You have to readjust your thinking. Be smart,” Lightfoot said. “Not only will our police be deployed to shut them down if you are not abiding by these orders we will be forced to shut down the parks and lakefront. The situation Is deadly serious and we need you take it deadly seriously.”
Police officers have been posted along the lakefront Thursday morning to prevent crowds and enforce the governor’s order, which is meant to prevent further spread of COVID-19, but some Chicagoans say they still have to get out and stretch their legs.
“We’ve got to get out and walk around,” Betsy Hausken said.
Hausken said she believes in following the “stay at home” order, but also in following her fitness routine. She wasn’t alone. Thursday morning, CBS 2 spotted a few walkers and runners on the lakefront, but for the most front it felt a bit bare.
“Less at this hour, definitely,” Hausken said. “On a Thursday morning weekday, it’s people generally on their bikes, running to work, the active people.”
The mayor and other city officials said they understand people still want to get exercise outside during the coronavirus outbreak, and while they’re allowed to do so, they need to keep at least six feet away from others, and not gather in groups of more than 10.
When crowds continued to pack the lakefront after the mayor’s warning on Wednesday afternoon, police began clearing out the lakefront, telling people to go home.
It’s unclear how long the lakefront will remain closed, but the governor’s “stay at home” order remains in effect through April 7.