CHICAGO (CBS) — Three months ago today, Mayor Lori Lightfoot cracked the whip on traveling to and from Chicago from COVID-19 hotspots, requiring people to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the city from states and territories with high infection rates.
The city threatened fines and punishments for rulebreakers. So CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory wanted to know how many people have been busted so far.
Week after week, Chicago leaders wag their fingers at people thinking of traveling to and from COVID-19 hot spots, but CBS 2 discovered it’s all bark, no bite.
Our request for the number of tickets and fines issued for violating the city’s emergency travel order came back empty. No records, the Chicago Department of Public Health said; not one person penalized for failing to quarantine.
So how’s enforcement going in other spots with similar orders?
Washington D.C.’s mayor announced travel restrictions at the end of the July. In the past 2 months, no one’s been fined, we’re told.
New York is a slightly different story. Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires out-of-state travelers to complete a health form.
At least two people in Staten Island refused to fill it out at a New York City Sheriff checkpoint, and were cited the week of Aug. 16.
Deputies even made a criminal arrest in Manhattan about two weeks ago.
Sheriff Joseph Fucito said his investigators determined a tourist was not following the rules and served him a mandatory quarantine order – that was his warning. Social media posts showed the Floridian continued to violate New York state travel restrictions so deputies moved in with the arrest. He was also cited civilly.
Fucito briefly explained New York’s process: Travelers fill out the form. The state follows up. Suspicions of non-compliance are investigated by the sheriff in the county involved. A mandatory quarantine order is issued and served.
Eight other people recently escalated to this level, he said.
The next step is arrest.
The public even can help snitch: New York’s website lists a phone number and form to report a violation.
Back in Chicago, officials promised no aggressive enforcement of the travel order the day after restrictions were announced.
“Our goal is first of all to get this message out strongly,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “We do not have a plan to, for example, look for out of state license plates and pull people over we do not have a plan to create a list of individuals who are traveling and try to track them down.”
Lightfoot was apparently mistaken in late July, believing tickets were issued.
A city spokesperson clarified this week: “original intention was fines, and we do have that option, but then it was decided to just send warning letters.”
After learning of no tickets or fines, CBS 2 asked several times for the number of warning letters sent out to suspected travel quarantine violators in Chicago. CDPH refused to release the amount, and continued to stress travel restrictions are about education over enforcement:
“The primary objective of Chicago’s Emergency Travel Order is to discourage non-essential travel to states where we’re seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and to educate the public about their role in ensuring our success at continued containment of the virus. We have issued warning letters when we learn of individuals who appear to be in violation of the order. First and foremost, though, we are relying on the public to adhere to the order and, similar to public health guidance on face coverings and social distancing, help protect the progress we’ve made in Chicago over the past several months.”