CHICAGO — The City of Chicago officially closed the Lakefront, 606 and Riverwalk until further notice Thursday, a day after crowds gathered in those areas in violation of stay-at-home orders issued by the city and the State of Illinois.
Wednesday evening, Chicago police cleared the lakefront after warm weather brought flocks of people to the path and park areas. People were seen playing basketball and congregating, while not giving themselves the six feet of social distancing recommended in the orders.
“What we saw yesterday at the lakefront, what we saw yesterday at the Bloomingdale Trail… that’s a very direct threat to the health of the people in this city,” Chicago Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly said Thursday.
Saying such activity is a "direct threat to our public health," Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the lakefront closed "from north to south," in addition to the 606 Trail and Riverwalk downtown. The order includes green spaces, bike paths and facilities near the lakefront.
Additionally, Lightfoot said "any and all" contact sports like basketball, soccer and football are also banned in the parks until further notice.
WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city officials announce they are closing the Chicago lakefront, nearby parks due to COVID-19 concerns
Chicago police will be increasing patrols in the areas as well, Lightfoot said. According to CPD Interim Supt. Charlie Beck, officers will continue enforcing the stay-at-home order across the city. While they will give warnings for crowds to disperse at first, Beck said they will issue citations or even arrest individuals who refuse to comply.
"This is a 24/7 legal order to comply with the public health standards, as put forward by the governor, the mayor and the CDPH," Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck said.
Saying most Chicagoans have been abiding by the stay-at-home order, Lightfoot addressed those who gathered in public Wednesday-- just hours after she warned the city would close parks if residents violated the stay-at-home order.
"Without question, your failure to abide by these life-saving orders will erase any progress we’ve made over the past week in slowing the spread of this disease," Lightfoot said.
According to Lightfoot, estimates have shown that as many as 40,000 people could require hospitalization in Chicago due to COVID-19 "in the coming weeks."
“The numbers indicate that this will affect all of us, or someone that we know. And what’s more, it has the potential to break the back of our healthcare system if we don’t act decisively,”
Lightfoot said. "This will push our city to the brink."
Around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Chicago police enforcing the order forced all media out of North Avenue Beach in order to close it to traffic. Police also blocked entrances to the nearby tunnel.