Chicago health officials urged anyone who attended a protest or gathering over the weekend to self-quarantine at home for 14 days if possible, warning residents that the coronavirus pandemic is not over – even if it’s not at the top of mind.
“While we continue to make progress, I am concerned we may see ourselves take a step backward down the line against COVID-19,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference Monday with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city officials to discuss the protests, looting, vandalism and unrest that gripped the city over the weekend.
“That’s because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus doesn’t care about what’s going on in the city,” Arwady continued, adding that COVID-19 still does not yet have a cure or effective treatmeant and “still takes every opportunity it can to spread.”
“Still here in Chicago we are seeing hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 every day,” she said. The number of coronavirus cases in Illinois surpassed 120,000 on Sunday, state health officials said, with a death toll of 5,390 statewide.
“If you’ve been in any kind of gathering this weekend – protests, social, if you reached out for contact during this time – you are at increased risk for having contracted COVID-19,” Arwady said, asking that those who gathered in groups, particularly those who did not keep a 6-foot distance from others, self-isolate at home for 14 days.
“I especially want to ask that if you have been in close contact with people outside of your household this weekend, please avoid close contact with those at the highest risk for serious outcome and death from COVID,” she continued.
“If you start to develop any symptoms, you must stay home except to get tested and you must get tested,” Arwady said, asking everyone “now more than ever” to continue practice physical distancing and follow health guidelines.
“Get testing if you have any concern that you might have been exposed to COVID and please continue to stay safe as we look ahead to rebuilding Chicago,” she added.
The weekend’s events – protests, looting, vandalism, violence and unrest that spanned the city and suburbs – brought into question whether Chicago will move into the third phase of its reopening plan on Wednesday as scheduled.
Lightfoot said Monday that she and other officials were “in conversation” on that topic and had not determined whether the city can move into the next phase.
“We will make a determination whether or not we can go forward on June 3 as planned,” Lightfoot said. “We haven’t made that determination yet.”
She announced on Thursday that Chicago would enter phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, days after the rest of Illinois moved forward with loosening restrictions meant to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Chicago’s third phase of reopening is slated to allow several businesses to reopen with new guidelines and limitations, and small non-essential gatherings of up to 10 people. Some of the businesses allowed to reopen include restaurants for outdoor dining with appropriate social distancing and sanitary measures.
Lightfoot mentioned some of those businesses looking to reopen after being closed since March soon were in the downtown areas hit hard by vandalism and looting Saturday night.
“It’s a terrible thing that after being shut down for so long, and these businesses were preparing for opening on June 3, putting out patio furniture and doing other things to get themselves ready, that now instead of a moment of celebration, what they’re doing is experiencing a moment of despair,” Lightfoot said.
“I think it’s going to take some time for us to assess what the impact is going to be on those businesses all across the city that were preparing,” she continued. “Certainly in the downtown area, there has been a negative impact. And we’re in conversations with those businesses to determine what that will mean for them this weekend and into the future.”
In announcing a date for the city to enter the third phase of reopening, Lightfoot warned that she and other officials stood prepared to move backwards if reopening leads to another surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Let’s be clear: under no circumstances should our move to phase three be confused with this crisis being over, because it’s not,” she said.
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