Lightfoot will be ‘extremely cautious’ before lifting stay-at-home order in Chicago

A lot will depend on the extent of testing available, the mayor said, since people must “have a level of confidence about whether or not they’re infected.”

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A man ignores a “trail closed” sign on the Lakefront Trail near Oak Street Beach as the city closes the area to pedestrians amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday morning, March 26, 2020.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said science and testing will help guide her decisions on lifting a stay-home order for Chicagoans.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday she would be “extremely cautious before we lift anything” about the stay-at-home order that has ground the Chicago economy to a virtual halt.

One model out of many shows that the number of coronavirus cases in Illinois might crest over the weekend, thanks to social distancing that has, it is hoped, flattened the curve.

But Lightfoot said she “doesn’t know of anybody credible who’s saying the peak is gonna be this weekend” and those rather optimistic predictions are “not consistent with our modeling,” which repeatedly changes.

In early March, the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus was doubling every one or two days. Then, it moved to every three or four days. Now, it’s every nine or ten days.

“That’s progress, but we’re still seeing a rise in the number of cases, the number of deaths, the number of ICU beds taken up with COVID patients or people under investigation for COVID. So we’re not close to seeing what the peak is yet,” she said.

Lightfoot said the bottom line, from an economic standpoint, is that “how we recover and how long it takes” will depend on “what the science and the data tell us about what the cases are” and “what testing comes on line.”

“We’re not gonna be comfortable kind of coming out of these closures until we have a better sense that we’re gonna be able to do a much larger scale of testing than what we have right now. We have to have the confidence that, if people return to the workplace, that they have a level of confidence about whether or not they’re infected,” she said.

“We don’t want to follow what happened in some other countries, where they put in some very draconian closures, bent the curve, then lifted those measures and then saw a huge spike in cases. That’s something we’re looking at very, very carefully across the country and across the world. So, we’re gonna be extremely cautious before we will lift anything here locally.”

Lightfoot said the end for stir-crazy Chicagoans and shut down businesses is “impossible to predict right now’ — and the subject of constant discussion between her team and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s.

“We are looking at what recovery looks like and we’ll have more to say on that in the coming days. But we are gonna be cautious and, as always during the pandemic, guided by the data and the science from our public health experts,” she said.

Lightfoot has responded to the pandemic by shutting down the lakefront and the 606 Trail, cutting off citywide liquor sales at 9 p.m. and by personally breaking up crowds of people.

She has also talked straight to Chicagoans desperate to reclaim their everyday lives.

On March 27, she warned the statewide stay-at-home order then due to expire on April 7 was likely to continue “deep into April.” A few days later, Pritzker extended it until April 30.

Earlier this week, she warned that Chicago and Illinois are a “long way away” from lifting the stay-at-home order, because the number of coronavirus cases in Chicago and Illinois is “not near the peak.”

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