‘Unsettling’ crowds along 606 Trail spark concern; lakefront brimming with people too

Groups gathered in Chicago’s parks, trails and lakefront Wednesday amid the statewide stay-at-home order designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

SHARE ‘Unsettling’ crowds along 606 Trail spark concern; lakefront brimming with people too

Residents enjoy the warm weather with a stroll along the Lakefront Trail near Oak Street Beach on Wednesday afternoon, despite a stay-at-home order from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

Despite orders for everyone to stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus in Illinois, Chicago’s lakefront was overrun Wednesday by people looking to enjoy some spring weather.

Droves of people hit the lakefront as temperatures soared to the high 50s. They walked their dogs, went for a jog and even sat in small groups out in the sun. 

But the large gatherings contradicted statewide orders to stay at home and practice social distancing to stop coronavirus, which reached 1,865 confirmed cases throughout Illinois on Wednesday. Nineteen people have now died from the COVID-19 outbreak in the state.

“I’ve been trying to go outside and get some exercise — alone — because I get antsy being inside all day,” said Sammy Garcia, of Logan Square. “But the number of people I saw outside today had me wondering if I was being safe.”

Garcia said she’d typically go to the nearby 606 Trail but was “unsettled” to see it crowded with other runners today.

“That didn’t seem smart. I took my run somewhere else because I’m not taking risks with the coronavirus,” she said.

Crowds along Chicago’s lakefront, parks and trails prompted a strong rebuke from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who threatened to shut down all parks and the lakefront if people don’t follow the statewide stay-at-home order.

“Way too many people gathering like it’s just another day. This is not just another day. And no day will be just another day until we are on the other side of this virus, which is weeks away,” the mayor said earlier Tuesday.

Lightfoot said she directed Chicago Police officers to shut down large gatherings, and that she was considering closing all parks, Millennium Park, the downtown Riverwalk and the entire lakefront.

Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said the lakefront was “very busy” but had a greater police presence to break up crowds.

”I hope the mayor’s message was received,” Guglielmi said.

He said police had to break up a few soccer games on the West Side and other activities along the lakefront, but everyone complied and dispersed.

”People should expect that if they’re in a group, they’ll probably be approached by a police officer and reminded why we can’t be in groups,” Guglielmi said. “At the end of the day, we won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel if people don’t come together and take the coronavirus seriously.”

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