Chicago will rely largely on signs announcing self-quarantine for people from states seeing COVID-19 surge

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot takes off her face mask to answer questions after announcing a new broadband initiative for students during a press conference at Evergreen Academy Middle School in Chicago on June 25, 2020. - Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO — Chicago health officials said Friday they have no plan for enforcing the city’s abrupt quarantine order for people arriving from states where coronavirus cases are surging, but will rely largely on signs posted along highways and at the two airports.

“We do not have a plan to, for example, look for out-of-state license plates and pull people over,” the city’s public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, said at a news conference. “We do not have a plan to create a list of individuals who are traveling and try to track them down.”

Arwady said the city’s main goal with the order is to emphasize travel risks during the pandemic. She said the city is also working with airline companies to notify people booking Chicago destination. “We want people to be thinking twice about whether now is a good time to travel,” she said.

The order was announced on Thursday and goes into effect Monday. It requires people who have spent more than 24 hours in 15 high-risk states to self-quarantine for 14 days after entering Chicago. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

Exceptions include essential workers, those coming here for medical treatment and those for whom “self-quarantine is not possible, practicable or advisable.” The order also does not apply to people who are at the airport for a connecting flight, or are driving through the city on their way elsewhere.

Violations could bring fines between $100 to $500 a day, up to $7,000.

Even though the order won’t apply to people who travel to those states over the holiday weekend and return Sunday, Arwady still advised them to pay close attention to their health over the next 14 days

On Thursday, the United States set a single-day record for new cases for the sixth time in nine days, with more than 50,000 reported for the first time. That’s an 85% from two weeks ago, when many of the states on the quarantine list began opening up.

Arwady said she is committed to preventing a repeat of the more than 1,000 new cases per day Chicago saw in mid-May. Now, the city is under 200 cases a day and declining.

“We cannot risk going backwards,” she said. “The most important thing that we do as a city and as a state to safeguard our progress are the individual decisions that every one of you makes every day.”

Those decisions include whether to wear face coverings, keeping 6-foot social distance and staying home if feeling sick.

“We recognize that this is a burden on people who were planning to take a vacation, for example, or people who were expecting to have people come to visit from these affected states,” Arwady said. “But we come too far in Chicago at this point not to do the things that are open to us that help prevent the spread of COVID.”


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