Public packs Chicago lakefront, Mayor Lightfoot shuts down access

March 26, 2020

Following a Wednesday afternoon press conference where Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot condemned Chicagoans ignoring Illinois’ “stay-at-home” order, Lightfoot ordered the closing of Chicago’s lakefront, the Chicago Riverwalk and The 606 trail. The decision comes after video surfaced of Chicagoans congregating along Chicago’s lakefront.

48th District Ald. Harry Osterman informed residents that the Lakefront Trail, parks and beaches south of Ardmore Avenue are closed indefinitely beginning at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. An end date has not been announced. 

“The order has been put in place to ensure social distancing between individuals and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” wrote Osterman. “This is a very serious health crisis we are in. I strongly ask you to follow this directive and stay off the lakefront.”

Ald. Brian Hopkins and James Cappleman echoed Osterman’s announcement, stating that the closure would remain in effect “until further notice.” According to Cappleman, all fieldhouses, playlots and school playgrounds would close alongside the Chicago Riverwalk and The 606 trail. 

“These steps were taken to further limit COVID-19 infections due to projection rates that if this stricter stay-at-home order did not occur, we would have upward of 40,000 residents requiring hospitalization,” wrote Cappleman. “This would decimate our healthcare system, leading to many deaths.”

On Wednesday, Lightfoot threatened to restrict access to Chicago’s beaches, warning Chicagoans to resist the temptation of warm weather amid growing concern surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

“That’s the last thing that any of us want,” said Lightfoot. “But I’m not going to hesitate to pull every lever at my disposal to force compliance if necessary.”

Lightfoot continued Thursday by detailing the importance of abstaining from outdoor recreational activity, saying, “If you stay at home you will save lives…You must stay at home. It is real.”

Lightfoot’s announcement comes six days after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Illinois’ “stay-at-home” order, which instructs Illinois residents to refrain from leaving their homes for any reason other than essential travel and services. Championing his reliance on science, Pritzker cited the potential loss of life as the reason for the order.

“To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay at home order for the state of Illinois,” said Pritzker. 

Pritzker continued: “Left unchecked, cases in Illinois will rise rapidly. Hospitals will be overwhelmed. Protective equipment will become scarce. We will not have enough healthcare workers or hospital beds or ventilators for the overwhelming influx of sick patients.”As of March 25, there have been 949 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Chicago and 2,538 throughout Illinois. In the United States, over 75,178 people contracted the coronavirus. 1,069 of those patients died.

Read more by Matthew Rago:

Illinois state officials confirm 673 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 2,538

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