A visibly angered Mayor Lori Lightfoot scolded partygoers for their “foolish, reckless behavior” during her appearance Saturday on a West Side block where authorities had learned of a planned party — one of six that had been tipped off to police.
Those tips came after Chicago police shut down numerous parties Friday night, some with as many as 150 attendees.
The mayor scolded those hosting or promoting the events for ignoring social distancing guidelines and said she had instructed Chicago Police Supt. David Brown to advise all police districts to give “special attention” to identifying and breaking up parties in the city.
“We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we need to, we will arrest you,” Lightfoot said as she stood in the block where the party was planned to be held near Springfield Avenue and Adams Street in East Garfield Park. “If you act like a criminal, and you violate the law, and if you refuse to do what is necessary to save lives in this city during the middle of a pandemic, we will take you to jail.”
Brown echoed those sentiments, saying that police will look first to other methods — like verbal warnings or towing cars — to break up parties, but they won’t stop at that.
“We’ve given enough warnings,” Brown said. “We’re getting to the point where we’re trying to save lives. If people are promoting parties or coming out to parties, we have to take that next level of enforcement.”
Death toll rises
Lightfoot’s comments came shortly after health officials announced another 105 people died of complications from the new coronavirus since Friday across Illinois, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 2,559.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also said Saturday that 2,450 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state’s case total to 58,505.
The state reported 15,208 positive test results for the COVID-19 virus Friday; about 300,000 people have been tested overall. The virus has been confirmed in 97 of the state’s 102 counties.
Despite the high numbers — daily case counts have topped 2,100 for a week — Illinois officials say the state is flattening the curve. Still, Pritzker and Ezike expressed concern that warming temperatures could test people’s resolve to maintaining social distancing.
“We know it’s getting difficult,” Ezike said. “The weather is nice. People are getting antsy, have cabin fever.”
She suggested safe ways to stay entertained, like board games or cooking, and emphasized the importance of wearing a mask and staying away from others, including when exercising.
Pritzker weighing ‘lots of factors’ for reopening
Asked about his thought process for deciding when it will be safe to begin reopening the state, Pritzker said he’ll need to see hospitalization rates start declining.
“Truthfully, as we talk about flattening and bending the curve, we’re still going up by a little bit,” Pritzker said. “Maybe you would call that ‘flat,’ but whatever you would call it at the moment, we’re not going down, and that’s what we really need to do.”
State records show 1,250 COVID-19 patients currently occupy ICU beds in hospitals across the state, 1,460 beds occupied by patients with other ailments and 977 vacant beds.
Once the rate starts dropping, Pritzker said he plans to listen to guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and implied that reopening could occur gradually, industry-by-industry.
“[I’m] trying to find safe industries, safe ways to get people back to their jobs, whether they work in an office, a factory, a food processor, or a restaurant or bar,” he said. “There’s lots of factors to consider as we’re trying to re-open the economy.”
Nursing home lockdowns effective
Despite of large coronavirus death and case numbers in nursing homes, Pritzker said he believes the policies and rules that Illinois has put in place for such congregated care facilities — as well as the rules that individual facilities have adopted — have been effective.
Pritzker named the state’s decision to lock down nursing homes before its March 26 disaster declaration and some nursing homes’ decisions to not accept family members for visits as two particular policies that have helped.
“I know how hard that is for people, but it’s vitally important,” he said. “Even as difficult as nursing homes have been as a spreading ground for coronavirus ... the fact is that shutting them down to outside visitors has helped a lot to keep many of those homes either COVID-free or with fewer infections.”
As of Friday, elderly care facilities had experienced 1,081 coronavirus deaths — 44 percent of the state’s total.