CHICAGO (CBS) — Cracking down on crowded sand. After days of people packing Chicago beaches, the Lakefront had a much different look on Friday.
Heading into the July 4th weekend, for many, would mean heading to the beach, but not this year. Chicago’s beaches are officially closed, but are people following the rules?
CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross is always investigating, and after days of seemingly letting people gather at many beaches, the city is making a change in enforcement.
It’s been a bizarre scene so far on Friday, the holiday weekend kicking off with nearly no one on the sand at beautiful Chicago beaches.
On Friday, police and the city’s social distancing ambassadors were more aggressively enforcing the closure of beaches, and some say it’s about time.
Police officers used loudspeakers to tell people to stay off the beach and out of Lake Michigan. It wasn’t the kind of holiday weekend greeting many expected, or wanted to hear.
Some visitors appeared a little taken aback by the new enforcement efforts.
“He just said, ‘Hey, you can’t go on the beach, but if you want to sit by it, that’s fine,’” Keyaira Sarpong said. “For someone like me, who just wants to sit and enjoy my day, it’s kind of terrible.”
Sarpong settled for a spot feet away from the sand, instead.
Chicago Park District workers and police were working to prevent gatherings across the city’s beaches; including at Foster, Lane, Osterman, and 31st Street.
A man with an innertube waited outside one beach, but that’s the closest both would get to the water. Seagulls accounted for most of the traffic elsewhere.
It’s a much different scene than the bonanza of beachgoers at Osterman Beach only 24 hours before, when people were packing the sand, despite the beaches being officially closed since late March.
The crowds on Thursday resulted in complaints from some, including Jonny Gieselman, who shared concerns with the city and CBS 2.
“I really didn’t see much enforcement going on. I really didn’t even see very many police cars before this,” he said.
Gieselman said he’s complained about gatherings on the lakefront for months, and only now is finally seeing something done.
“This afternoon, there’s actually, I think, two or three police cars in view, and the beach is completely empty,” he said.
It’s all part of Chicago’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. City officials estimated, in a group of 50 people, there’s a 1 in 6 chance someone has the virus.
But it appears the closures in Chicago are sending some to neighboring beaches that are open in the northern suburbs and northwest Indiana.
We found a line to get into Evanston’s Clark Street Beach. While on the sand, people were spreading out, but we can’t say the same while they were waiting in line.
Seamus Deely said the crowds were “maybe too much.”
He said he’s a little worried, “but we’ve been pretty safe, and trying to keep our distance and everything.”
As for when Chicago beaches will reopen, that all depends on the COVID-19 numbers.
If the trend continues downward, the hope is soon.