CHICAGO (CBS) — Warmer weather over the next week might provide more temptation than usual to get outside for some fresh air, nearly two weeks into the statewide “stay at home” order, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said police are prepared to continue enforcing her order shutting down the lakefront, the Chicago Riverwalk, and the 606 trail to prevent a repeat of large crowds risking the spread of COVID-19.
Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said the city is constantly sending the message that people should be staying home as much as possible, and keeping six feet away from other people when they do go outdoors to exercise.
If police do see people ignoring social distancing guidelines, especially if gathering in groups of 10 or more, officers are prepared to issue fines to repeat violators, and if necessary make arrests.
Police said, from March 26 through April 1, officers have issued 10 citations and arrested three people related to large gatherings and violations of the “stay at home” order.
“We’re at a time when the education has been done, and now we need to make sure that we enforce the governor’s order, which is a legal order. When people defy that order, they are in violation of the law, and folks have to understand that there are consequences for that,” Beck said Thursday.
The mayor stressed that, while people can still go outside if they need to work out, or just to avoid cabin fever, they can do so, but they need to take the proper precautions to prevent spreading the coronavirus.
“We have always said that people can go outside. People need to get fresh air. They can walk down the block, or they’re going to walk their dog. The issue isn’t the exercise, the issue isn’t necessarily being outside, it’s congregating, and being in places where the risk of exposure is heightened because of being in close proximity to somebody who really isn’t in your household,” she said.
Meantime, the mayor said the city and state are continuing work to set up an alternate care facility at McCormick Place to ease the burden of the hospital system so that the more critical patients can receive the care they need. The first 500 spaces for beds arrived at the convention center this week, and officials are working to staff the facility. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to have 3,000 spaces for beds set up at McCormick Place by the end of the month.
Lightfoot said, when it’s fully equipped and staffed, McCormick Place likely will be the largest overflow site for the coronavirus outbreak in the nation.
The city and state also are working with the Army Corps of Engineers on other alternate COVID-19 treatment sites at the former Advocate Sherman Hospital campus in Elgin and at the former MetroSouth Medical Center building in Blue Island.
“We need as many additional beds to come online as possible, so if there are other opportunities out there, we’ll actively pursue them,” Lightfoot said.
North Chicago-based AbbVie biopharmaceutical research company has donated $35 million to support COVID-19 relief efforts. Part of that funding will go toward the International Medical Corps’ effort to deploy 20 mobile field hospitals to help increase surge capacity at overburdened hospitals. Lightfoot said the city has not had any discussions yet regarding a mobile field hospital for Chicago.