Lightfoot warns Chicagoans, follow guidance or city will fall back to Phase 3

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady are asking Chicagoans to keep up the fight against coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the mayor implored Chicago residents not to let their guard down, saying COVID-19 has not disappeared in Chicago and will be here for the foreseeable future, especially as the country is seeing a rapid rise in cases in 17 states.

Young people have made up the largest percentage of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Chicago in recent weeks and city officials warned Wednesday that the trend could lead to the closure of bars or other businesses.

City health data showed 29% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases since June 15 have been among people ages 18 to 29. People ages 30 to 39 made up the second largest percentage of confirmed cases, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. That’s a stark change from May, when cases of the virus peaked in the city and overwhelmingly affected older people.

Young people do have a lower risk of serious complications from COVID-19, but they still can happen, Arwady said at a news conference at City Hall. She pointed to the case of a Chicago woman in her 20s who required a double lung transplant because of severe damage caused by the virus. And once infected, younger people can spread the virus to older people who are more vulnerable, she said.

“This disease does not discriminate,” Lightfoot said. “It attacks everyone.”

Chicago has reported an average of 192 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past seven days. Overall, every zip code currently has cases of coronavirus, but Lincoln Park's rate is higher than the rest.

Lightfoot said that if that figure tops 200 cases, the city might consider changes to its strategy for reopening businesses so that it can try to avoid the larger surges being seen in many states that were more aggressive about lifting virus restrictions.

“If we continue to see this uptick in cases, we're going to have no choice but to go back into Phase 3," Lightfoot said. "That means shutting down businesses. That means imposing more restrictions on your mobility. No one wants to go back there but we will have to go back there if people continue to ignore the public health guidance.

Options could include closing down bars again if data suggests that people gathering in them has led to increased cases, she said.

“We hope that we don’t have to take closure steps ... but as is now I think well known across the country, bars pose a particular challenge,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve emphasized to bars: We’re not messing around, you’ve got to follow the guidance.”

Last weekend, the city shut down one bar that was clearly ignoring the rules.

City-ordered setbacks could be avoided in Chicago if people of all ages wear face coverings and keep their distance from others, Arwady said.

“Now more than ever, we need you all to do the things that have gotten us this far,” she said.

Bar and restaurant closures would be an automatic, first-step mitigation in Illinois for any of the state’s 11 regions in a surge-response plan released Wednesday by Gov. J.B Pritzker’s administration. It spells out how and when rising indicators of a surge in various parts of the state would necessitate the closing of bars and restaurants, and if more severe, other retail shops or gathering places.

The only substantive change in strategy was carving up the state’s four virus-watch regions into 11 smaller areas, including two that cover Chicago and surrounding suburban Cook County. Pritzker was criticized for the state’s initial approach because much of northeastern Illinois was in the same region as hard-hit Chicago.

Amid rising case counts, California’s governor this week shut down bars and indoor restaurant dining along with some other types of businesses. Louisiana’s governor also limited bars to takeout or delivery service, leading many to close in New Orleans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.