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Open Streets Finally Coming To Chicago So People Can Social Distance Outside

People have said they need more room to get outside without having to worry about crowds or packed sidewalks.

Leland Avenue in Ravenswood has already been designated a "neighborhood greenway," but it has not yet received the bike-friendly streetscape improvements.
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CHICAGO — The city is finally getting open streets, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.

Select portions of residential streets will soon be turned into open spaces where people can walk, ride bikes and do other outdoor activities. But Lightfoot didn’t announce where those roads would be during a Friday press conference, instead saying they’ll be be named in coming weeks.

At least one — Leland Avenue between Lincoln Avenue and Sheridan Road — opened Friday, however.

RELATED: How To Safely Use Chicago’s First Shared Street In Ravenswood: ‘It’s Not A Block Party’

“We all know how hard it is on busy sidewalks, and [opening streets] simply makes [social distancing] easier,” Lightfoot said. “Greater details about which streets will be used for that purpose will be coming in the next days as Commissioner Biagi and her team continue engaging with key stakeholders, elected officials and, most importantly, community members throughout Chicago.”

Gia Biagi, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said they’ll put up barricades and signs to keep away cars.

Six other roads will be turned into outdoor dining spots as part of a separate but related pilot program also announced during Friday’s press conference.

The move comes after weeks of transportation advocates asking the city to open up streets to pedestrians, giving them more room to walk, jog and ride bikes so they can safely social distance while outside during the pandemic.

With the lakefront and popular trails like The 606 closed to prevent overcrowding, people have said they need more room to get outside without having to worry about crowds or packed sidewalks.

Other major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, created open streets weeks ago.

So far, permits were requested for opening the following streets to pedestrians and cyclists, though the city has not confirmed any except for Leland Avenue:

  • Glenwood Avenue from Carmen Avenue to Devon Avenue, a stretch that cuts through Edgewater and Andersonville.
  • Leland Avenue from Lincoln Avenue to Sheridan Road, a path running from Lincoln Square to Uptown.
  • Palmer Street between Long Avenue and Kedzie Boulevard, from Hanson Park to Palmer Square.
  • Cortland Avenue from Ridgeway Avenue to Rockwell Avenue, a stretch one block north of the 606.
  • West Roscoe Street and North Narragansett Avenue to West Roscoe Street and North Long Avenue, just north of Belmont Cragin.
  • North Wood Street and West Cortland Street to North Wood Street and West North Avenue in Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 115,833 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Thursday. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 5,186 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 44,160 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 2,052 people have died.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

• Arrests: Despite the mayor’s claim that police have enforced social distancing equally across Chicago, data shows almost all arrests and citations for congregating have been issued on the city’s South and West sides.

• Helping Seniors: My Block, My Hood, My City needs help handing out supplies to elderly people this weekend.

• Contact Tracing: Pritzker is ramping up the tracing program that intends to isolate every person known to be in recent contact with someone who has newly confirmed case.

The city is also looking for an organization to head up a 600-person contact tracing team.

• Reopening Businesses: The state has released its guidelines for how businesses can safely reopen during Phase 3. The city released rules of its own, too.

Here’s what the city wants bars, restaurants, salons and stores to do before they can reopen.

• Child Care: The state is now allowing child care centers to reopen during Phase 3, though with capacity limits. Day camps will be allowed to reopen, too, though they also face restrictions.

• Phase 3: Chicago is not yet ready to progress to the next stage in the state reopening plan, Lightfoot said.

But here’s what will reopen in the city when it moves into Phase 3, hopefully in early June, Lightfoot said.

• Mental Health: Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to embrace their feelings and find ways to care for themselves, saying she’s allowed herself to cry during the pandemic.

• “We’re Not Them”: Lightfoot said Chicago won’t rush to reopen like Florida and Georgia and will instead focus on saving lives.

• Churches: At least three Chicago churches were cited for holding in-person services during the stay at home order. The city has ordered them to stop hosting in-person services.

• Patio Season: Restaurants and bars can offer outdoor seating starting May 29 as officials try to save the industry. But Lightfoot said that won’t be the case in Chicago.

• Unemployment: A staggering 1 million people are out of work in Illinois, according to newly released data.

• Masks: Two local designers have switched from high fashion to protective masks as part of the city’s effort to provide 1 million reusable cloth masks to Chicagoans.

• Domestic Violence: Demand is spiking at domestic violence shelters, but they’re losing beds for social distancing.

• Undercounting Deaths: The number of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois is likely higher than what’s been reported, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

• Food Delivery: Services like Grubhub and DoorDash will soon have to tell customers just how much they’re charging restaurants for delivering food. The city is pushing for more transparency from the services as restaurants struggle during the pandemic.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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