CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been warning Chicago that a spike in new COVID-19 cases has been seen among 18- to 29-year-olds – just the demographic that often flocks to Wrigleyville for Opening Day for the Cubs.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, that opening day was just over a week away as of Wednesday.
The patio at Smoke Daddy BBQ, 3636 N. Clark St., will have a live feed of the game on Marquee Sports Network on their TVs, but bars and restaurants near Clark and Addison streets say they are taking Mayor Lightfoot’s warning about crowds very seriously.
Jam-packed bars and summer baseball go hand and hand in Wrigleyville.
“Last year, on the morning you wake up when it’s game day, you have your staff amped up ready to go,” said James Miller, Director of Operations for the 4 Star Restaurant Group. “This year, it’s a ghost town up here.”
Miller says baseball brings this neighborhood to life. But next Friday’s Cubs Opening Day could be make it or break it some of the businesses in the area.
“We’re excited to get people back in here, but do it in a safe environment,” Miller said. “We want to have a full house, but we want to have a responsible house.”
Addison Street is the northern border of the 60657 ZIP code butts up to the entrance of Wrigley Field.
The ZIP code has seen its COVID-19 positivity rate double since just last week.
In the past, the 18-29 age group tends to make up a large portion of standing-room crowds. But bar and restaurant owners said those crowds will *not be returning to the neighborhood any time soon.
Mask requirements are posted on business after business around the perimeter of the ballpark, and the Gallagher Way meeting spot is closed.
Miller said bar service won’t be an option and capacity will be strictly limited to 25 percent.
“We come out here and measure up our tables every day,” he said. “Six feet is six feet. We’re not cutting corners.”
Because even as a diehard Cubs fan, Miller said fun opening day crowds are not worth regressing back to Phase 3.
“You won’t see it at our restaurant. I don’t believe you’ll see it anywhere,” Miller said. “The mayor spoke this morning, and everyone gets the point. In order for us to continue having restaurants and having bars, we have to be responsible. Our regulars, our families, the ones that live in these neighborhoods are the ones that we believe are going to show up.”
Earlier Monday, Mayor Lightfoot noted that since June 15, nearly 30 percent of all new virus cases in Chicago are among people between the ages of 18 and 29.
“This should be all the proof that you need. If you are in the 18 to 29-year-old cohort, you are catching COVID-19, you are getting sick, and you’re not only putting yourself at risk, you’re putting every single person that you come into contact with at risk as well,” she said.
The mayor has repeatedly warned that, if Chicago’s virus numbers take a turn for the worse, she won’t hesitate to reinstate stricter public health requirements.
“Some of you have joked that I’m like the mom who will turn the car around when you’re acting up. No friends, it’s actually worse, I won’t just turn the car around, I’m going to shut it off, I’m going to kick you out, and I’m going to make you walk home. That’s who I am. That’s who I must be for you and everyone else in the city to make sure that we continue to be safe,” she said. “I don’t want to be that person if I don’t have to, but I will if you make me, and right now we are on the precipice. We are dangerously close to going back to a dangerous state of conditions.”
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, while Chicago is averaging fewer than 200 new cases per day, she expects to climb above that threshold soon.
“When we get back above 200, we’re back in a high incident state, and for me, that means we are back in a caution state. It does not equal an automatic rollback,” she said.
However, if and when Chicago does climb back above that threshold, public health officials will look at likely “problem areas,” such as bars, and could order them to close if needed.
Arwady said, if Chicago reaches an average of 400 cases per day, that would be equivalent to the levels seen in states included in the city’s travel quarantine mandate, and would indicate a need to go back to Phase 3 of the reopening plan.
The Cubs will open the season against the Brewers at Wrigley Field on July 24. Of course, this year, Wrigley will be absent about 40,000 or so spectators.
(This report has been updated to clarify the live feed of the game at Smoke Daddy will be on the restaurants TVs, not the video screen at Gallagher Way outside of Wrigley Field. The Cubs said they will not be broadcasting games at Gallagher Way.)