Lightfoot issues stay-home ‘advisory,’ puts 10-person limit on social gatherings

Warning that 1,000 more Chicagoans could die by year’s end, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday issued a stay-at-home “advisory” and slapped a mandatory, 10-person lid on social gatherings to control a second surge of coronavirus cases that’s worse than the first.

Two weeks to the day before Thanksgiving, Lightfoot implored Chicagoans to shake off “COVID fatigue,” order small turkeys and resist the temptation to open their homes to extended family.

If they don’t, the city is “on track to lose 1,000 more Chicagoans” — perhaps more — by Dec. 31.

“Chicago has reached a critical point in the second surge of COVID-19, demanding that we undertake this multi-faceted and comprehensive effort to stop the virus in its tracks,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a press release.

“The gains we have made this past year have been the result of our willingness to work together. Even in this difficult moment, we will continue to unite as we always have for our city in order the halt the rise we’re seeing, shake out of the fatigue we’ve been experiencing and make the crucial difference in what our future is going to look like.”

Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady noted Chicago’s positivity rate of 14.1% is up from 10.9% a week ago. The average daily case load stands at 1,920 — 36% higher than a week ago and the highest rate since the onset of the pandemic.

“I’m very concerned we could be looking at tens of thousands of more cases, which would overwhelm the healthcare system and lead to hundreds more deaths,” Arwady was quoted as saying.

The stay-home advisory takes effect at 6 a.m. Monday. Chicagoans are urged to leave home only for work, school, medical appointments, groceries, take-out food and pharmaceuticals.

Non-essential, out-of-state travel is a no-no. So are at-home gatherings with anybody outside your immediate household — except for “essential staff,” which includes home health care workers or educators.

The 10-person limit on meetings and social events also takes effect at 6 a.m. on Monday. It impacts everything from weddings, birthday parties and business dinners to social events and funerals. It applies to “any venue” where a gathering or social event takes place, “including meeting rooms.”

Fitness clubs, retail stores, hairdressers, barber shops and move theaters that have their own capacity mandates are not impacted by the 10-person limit. Generally, the capacity ceiling at those locations is 40 percent or 50 people, whichever is fewer.

City Hall is also launching a community outreach effort in coronavirus hot spots on the Northwest and Southwest sides. More than 1,000 city employees and 550 contact tracers will join forces with hundreds of community-based organizations to reach vulnerable Chicagoans, under the plan.

The biggest hot spot is ZIP code 60629, which includes Ashburn, Chicago Lawn, Clearing, Gage Park, Garfield Ridge, West Elsdon and West Lawn.

In those Southwest Side neighborhoods, there have been 8,230 coronavirus cases and 912 over the last week. The positivity rate is 26.3%. In a combined population of 111,850, and one in every 14 has tested positive, and one in every 874 residents has died.

The stay-home portion of the mayor’s game plan is advisory. The 10-person limit is mandatory. But it remains to be seen how the city plans to enforce either.

The city’s press release simply states Chicago Department of Public Health “orders require indoor gatherings within private residences” be “limited to six non-household members” and the department “has the authority to fine individuals for breaking this requirement and hosting large social gatherings in their private residences.”

Already, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to close restaurants and bars to indoor patrons for a second time has prompted partygoers to gather in hotel rooms and vacation rentals.

Throughout the pandemic, Lightfoot has not hesitated to play the political heavy whenever she sensed trouble.

She shut down the lakefront, the downtown Riverwalk and the 606 Trail — and kept them closed for months — when Chicagoans could not be trusted to avoid gathering in large groups. She drove around the city breaking up large gatherings, cut off citywide liquor sales at 9 p.m. and issued a “travel advisory” that urged people returning from states where the virus was surging to quarantine for 14 days.

When the mayor felt it was time to reopen, she did it slowly — by, as she put it, “turning a dimmer switch.”

Late last month, Lightfoot tried and failed to stem the tide of rising COVID-19 cases by re-imposing restrictions on bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses.

Bars were restricted to outdoor seating only — no drinking indoors.

Restaurants were ordered to close at 10 p.m. and cut off liquor sales at 9 p.m., including cocktails to go. No liquor sales after 9 p.m. at packaged goods stores, either.

Other non-essential businesses were ordered to close their doors between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

When Pritzker subsequently ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving indoor patrons, Lightfoot tried to talk him out of it, then reluctantly went along with the restrictions.

To help Chicago restaurants fighting for survival, she vowed to dole out $10 million grants and impose a temporary cap on restaurant delivery fees.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot told reporters she was “very concerned about the trajectory” of coronavirus cases in Chicago, but not enough to order another stay-at-home shutdown of the city’s pandemic-ravaged economy.

Instead, she talked about launching a “surgical” strike of increased mitigations targeted to specific neighborhoods where the coronavirus is raging out of control.

“When the pandemic first hit Chicago, all of us were kind of scrambling to figure out what was it, how deadly was it, how is it transmitted. We used a lot of broad and, candidly, blunt tools because we were at the very early stages of our learning. We know a lot more now about the virus and how it works,” Lightfoot said on that day.

“We’ve got to use a surgeon’s knife and not a blunt ax. In thinking about the next steps, that is really the mindset that we are taking. We have a sense of what the challenges are. Where in our city—down to the block level and census tract—those challenges are.”

via Chicago Sun-Times

November 12, 2020 at 01:03PM

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