Every foot of floor space appears crowded with about a hundred partiers. Dozens are packed into one corner, dancing. More are filling drinks on the other side of the room. Lines have formed at the front door and on the stairs, with attendees unable to move freely.
It’s a shocking scene in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and more than a million viewers watched the viral Facebook video of a house party gone wild Saturday night, reportedly in Chicago on the West Side.
Although some partiers were wearing masks, most were not, and the social distancing guidelines designed to slow the pandemic’s spread seemed to be completely ignored.
The videographer, Tink Purcell, captured the chaotic scene from halfway up a staircase and streamed it live online for about 24 minutes Saturday night. Come Monday, however, the video was removed from Facebook.
TMZ first reported about the video Sunday morning. Purcell did not respond to a request for comment Sunday afternoon.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, asked about the video at his Sunday news conference, said he’d already heard about it and explained how dangerous such behavior can be.
“By doing that — by standing together, not social distancing, many people not wearing masks — you’re literally putting everyone around you in danger,” Pritzker said. “They are putting you in danger, [too]. And very importantly, all of those people are putting their families and their friends who are not there with them in danger.”
Chicago police spokesman Tom Ahern said a large gathering was broken up early Sunday in the 2000 block of North Narraganset Avenue in Galewood, though he could not confirm that it was the same party recorded in the video. No arrests or citations were made at that gathering.
“It’s not anything punitive; it’s about health and protection,” Ahern said. “So they were able to disperse without taking action and making arrests.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Pritzker in admonishing the party attendees Sunday, tweeting that “what was depicted on the video was reckless and utterly unacceptable.”
“While most Chicagoans are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, reckless actions like these threaten our public health and risk erasing the progress we have made,” she said. “We will hold those responsible accountable.”
Pritzker said he and other lawmakers have largely chosen to trust Illinoisans to self-enforce social distancing guidelines, which specifically mention staying at least six feet away from others and avoiding crowded places.
But he added police officers still do have the ability to arrest and charge violators with reckless conduct, especially if they refuse to obey reminders from police or if they repeatedly violate the guidelines.
“If you’re putting the community in danger, as a party like that does, that should be broken up,” he said.
Comments on the Facebook video indicated most viewers saw the party as ill-advised; one commenter joked he “would [have] stood at the top floor and sprayed Lysol straight down” on the partygoers.
Pritzker said he felt the gravity of the stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic was clearly disregarded by attendees.
“All of those people have violated not only the intention of the order that we’ve put out, but also they’ve violated the trust of their friends and family,” he said.