CHICAGO — Anyone arriving in Chicago after spending 24 hours or more in one of 15 states flagged for having a surge in coronavirus cases is required to self-quarantine for 14 days starting Monday, according to an order signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot signed the public health order over the weekend, which imposes fines of $100 to $500 a day, up to $7,000 total, for anyone who violates it. However, city officials conceded they won’t be able to keep track of who is and isn’t following the rules.
As Chicago sees a steady decline in cases and deaths, Lightfoot said she’s trying to protect all the hard work and sacrifice people made to get to the point where the city is now.
“If you’re coming from a place where the cases are exploding, you have an obligation to be conscious of that fact and to protect yourself, but also protect your neighbors in this new locale against the potential spread of the virus,” Lightfoot said.
There’s no end date for the travel advisory, and the city says it will update its list every Tuesday. States included in the original order are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah.
There are some exceptions for people who travel for essential work, like government workers, those in the military and people who travel for medical care, although they will need a certified note from their employer.
Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago health commissioner, said the city isn’t going to track every traveler, but they want to discourage non-essential travel and hope people do the right thing.
While Chicago and Illinois have seen declines in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, other parts of the country are seeing a surge in new cases. The country overall is setting new highs for daily COVID-19 cases.
Lightfoot said her team thought long and hard about the order that applies to anyone arriving in Chicago from states like Florida that have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“One day they almost 12,000, new cases as an astonishing number. I was just on a call earlier today with my friend Mirror Turner from Houston, his city is running out of ICU beds,” Lightfoot said.
Officials said New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have decided to take the same approach.
Some passengers at O’Hare Monday morning said they were surprised to find out about the city’s new emergency travel order. Others wondered how the city would enforce its requirement for people arriving from certain states to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“I don’t know how they are going to do that,” Chicagoan Timothy Grisby said.
Northwestern University’s Dr. Sadiya Khan said it will be difficult if not impossible to enforce the travel order, but agrees simple steps like self-quarantining and wearing a mask or protective covering can go a long way.
“Being able to come home and self quarantine could protect a lot of people,” Khan said. “We’ve been doing an amazing job flattening the curve. But what we really want to see is not this persistent plateau in cases and deaths, but really a decline.”