CHICAGO — The state is on track to enter Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s reopening plan, which will swing doors open at salons, reopen all state parks and allow bars and restaurants to serve customers outside as soon as next week.
But Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaking during a Thursday press conference, said Chicago won’t rush to reopen as other states and cities have. Instead, officials here will move slowly and listen to experts to save lives, she said during an impassioned speech.
“We have made a difference in saving lives in the city because people have understood the need to adhere to the guidance,” Lightfoot said. “That can’t be said in other parts of the country, in other parts of the country right around us. I don’t like to cast aspersions on other states and other cities, but you look at what’s happened in Iowa. You look at what’s happened in Georgia or Florida or some of these other states that have not paid attention whatsoever to the guidance of … public health experts.
“We’re not them. And we’re not gonna be them. We’re Chicagoans and we’re gonna be smart and we’re gonna be safe because that is what necessary, truly, to save lives.”
Georgia was one of the first states to reopen nonessential businesses in the country. Already, federal officials are concerned the state will run out of hospital beds due to a surge in cases, NPR reported.
Iowa, which never implemented a stay at home order, did see more people die because of it, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study compared the state with Illinois, and “researchers concluded that the lockdown may have helped limit infections in Illinois — and that Iowa could have benefited from the same policy.”
Before any businesses deemed non-essential in March reopen, Lightfoot said public health officials need to offer guidance to business owners and Chicagoans based on science. She said more guidance would be released Friday.
This means the changes that come in Phase 3 — like the opening of salons, spas, outdoor fitness classes and outdoor dining and expanding your social circle to groups of 10 — could be off-limits in Chicago for awhile longer. As for the lakefront, the mayor said she was actively working on a plan to safely reopen it along with The 606 and Riverwalk in the weeks ahead, but she would not commit to a date.
The mayor and Pritzker have received criticism from some for their gradual reopening plans, but Lightfoot said she’s worried about a spike in cases — not what other states or towns are doing.
“When I find myself in the circumstance of calling the survivors of people who have died, I don’t want their deaths to be in vain because we are so fixated on a moment of pleasure that can impact our city for a lifetime,” Lightfoot said. “And, yeah, I will say the same thing that I tell my 12-year-old: I don’t care what other people do. You’re my kid.
“I am the mayor of this city; I have a responsibility and an obligation to speak the truth even when people don’t want to hear it, even when it’s hard, because that’s what’s the right thing to do.”
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city is working on guidance for the general public on how to navigate a world where COVID-19 is still very much present.
“If I am a person with underlying health conditions, if I am a person who is older or both of those, I would probably recommend not expanding that bubble really,” Arwady said. “Broadly, the safest thing to do is to not have interactions with people closely. Every time you have interactions with people, especially within 6 feet, especially without a face covering, you have the potential for spreading the virus.”
Even as the sun comes out and the weather warms, the virus is among us, Lightfoot added.
“There is no vaccine. There’s no cure. We’re still at risk. COVID’s still here. It’s still getting people sick and people are still dying,” Lightfoot said. “Whether we open up a restaurant, a barber shop, whatever it is, you’re still gonna need to practice social distancing.
“We are going to open up our city and enjoy the wonders of Chicago in the summertime,” she said. But “we have to be careful.”
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