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City Will Crack Down On Bars, Gyms If Rise In Coronavirus Cases Among Young Chicagoans Continues, Lightfoot Says

The city has seen a "concerning" rise in cases of COVID-19 among people ages 18-29. Because of that, the city is "looking at where these folks congregate," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

People gather in lines to get into Moe's Cantina and walk on Clark Street Saturday in Wrigleyville.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned restaurants, bars and other spots popular among younger Chicagoans to protect patrons from coronavirus — or else they risk a crackdown.

The city has seen a rise in cases of COVID-19 among people ages 18-29, which has been concerning, Lightfoot said during a Monday press conference. Officials have said the uptick is due to to a number of reasons, including the fact young people are gathering in groups and at businesses without social distancing or face coverings.

Because of that, the city is “looking at where these folks congregate,” Lightfoot said.

“That’s why we’re having a lot of conversations with bars, restaurants, other places of entertainment,” Lightfoot said. “And if we don’t see progress, we’re gonna take some specific steps.

“But my hope, always, is to educate people into compliance. … We need to make sure that we are continuing to be diligent.”

RELATED: Young Adults Now Make Up Most Of Chicago’s New Coronavirus Cases, City’s Health Chief Says

Lightfoot said the city is not yet at the level of shutting down such businesses — but they are pushing restaurants, bars, gyms and other places where young people gather to follow the city’s rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus and emphasize that patrons should take public health rules seriously.

“I’m not gonna take anything off the table. I don’t think we’re at that point [of closing again] just yet, but I am deeply concerned because we are starting to see this uptick …,” Lightfoot said. “The case rate, the daily accumulation of cases, is something I’m definitely concerned about.

“And we’re not gonna hesitate to take the steps that are necessary if we continue to see a rise in that number.”

While people age 19-29 are now making up most of Chicago’s new coronavirus cases, people 30-39 have also been seeing more coronavirus cases, Lightfoot said.

The uptick among young people has been seen throughout the city, but it’s been particularly prominent in the Lincoln Park and New City community areas, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Friday.

Arwady and Lightfoot said the rise has possibly come because younger people feel “invincible” and aren’t taken precautions like wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

There’s been a “fair bit of spread” in informal settings, like people gathering for house parties or going to businesses where requirements like social distancing aren’t well-enforced, Arwady said.

But young people still face risks from coronavirus, Lightfoot said.

“If you’re young, it’s still coming for you,” Lightfoot said

And Arwady said the city is worried young people could transmit the virus to older Chicagoans, who are at higher risk of severe complications or death from coronavirus.

At the start of July, Lightfoot vowed to crack down on bars and other businesses that aren’t following rules for keeping people safe amid the pandemic. That came after Block Club reported on bars reopening in Wrigleyville, where large crowds of young people drank and gathered on the sidewalks and at some establishments without wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

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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