CHICAGO — City officials say they’re “watching closely” for signs beaches and pools can reopen this summer — but don’t plan to head to any of the city’s beaches to celebrate the Fourth of July.
While announcing Chicago will move into Phase 4 of its coronavirus reopening plan Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said beaches will stay closed until at least Independence Day weekend.
Though indoor dining, bars and some venues will soon be able to open with reduced capacity, Arwady said there are still concerns about crowds of people without masks at city beaches.
“Where we think about pools and beaches, let me just be clear that the water itself is not a concern for COVID spread,” Arwady said. “The risk is that individuals who breathe on each other when they are at beaches and at pools have the opportunity to spread virus.”
When people are in the hot sun and swimming, face coverings are less practical — but they are key to preventing virus spread in crowds, she said.
“In water it is basically impossible to wear a face covering,” Arwady said. “At this point, basically we’ve talked about unless we get in a heat emergency situation, we don’t have a plan to have pools open. And beaches are also not open yet. But we’ll be watching closely.”
Arwady said the city is watching how residents handle the reopening of the Lakefront Trail, which began Monday, before they decide to open beaches. When beaches do open, which would be sometime after July 4, there would need to be social distancing measures in place, Arwady said.
Playgrounds will also remain closed indefinitely due to the constant cleaning that would be required otherwise and because children cannot easily socially distance on them, officials said.
“The concern there is given the congregation, given the frequency that would be needed to try to even realistically keep up with the cleaning just doesn’t make sense right now,” she said. “I think we’re still a way’s away from those. … Playgrounds are still closed and they’re gonna be closed for the foreseeable future. We’re not cleaning those playgrounds. Parents, you need to be careful and cautious.”
While the city has been slightly more strict about reopening than the rest of the state, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, is on the same page about beaches, according to the Sun-Times.
“I think you could do that safely,” Ezike said of beaches — though she said personally she won’t go to one. “You can get into your little spot and just be with your kids and keep everybody away. Maybe even wear a mask and be distant from other people.”
For those anxious to get back in the pool or on the beach, Arwady had simple advice: Keep wearing a face covering in public and social distancing. If cases keep going down, more things will open up.
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