Lightfoot predicts extension of stay-at-home order, announces programs for Chicago’s homeless

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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot thinks Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order will extend into May.

Lightfoot made the comment Monday during an unrelated news conference where she announced announcing new programs to help Chicago’s homeless population. Pritzker’s current stay-at-home order for the state is set to end April 30.

“I think that’s going to be difficult for us to say, April 30, everything comes up, I don’t expect that to happen,” Lightfoot said. “I think it will extend beyond that.”

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said during a news conference Monday that “it’s likely that there will be adjustments to the orders that we’ve put in place.”

Meanwhile, to meet the immediate needs of homeless shelter staff and residents, CDPH said it has arranged for nurses to visit all shelters across the city to provide in-person education and screenings.

More than 700 shelter residents and staff can now be tested for COVID-19 each week due to an expansion of testing capabilities from University of Illinois Health and Rush University Medical Center, according to Lightfoot’s office.

The Chicago Fire Department has already started the process of transporting the homeless from area hospitals to various YMCA’s and hotels in an effort to free up more beds for COVID-19 patients in need of serious care.

“Unlike many of us, our residents experiencing homelessness cannot simply close their doors to this disease, and that’s why we have we have rapidly escalated our citywide system to prevent transmission of this disease within shelters and encampments, and ultimately save lives,” said Lightfoot.

The city of Chicago recently opened five new shelters and Illinois has set aside $8 million to help get the homeless off the streets and out of crowded shelters.

“They we’re in need before this crisis and they are more in need now. And we have to respond continuously to fill the void and address the need,” Lightfoot said Monday.

It’s estimated that more than 1,200 people experiencing homelessness are still on the streets of Chicago.

Shelters and organizations are now working to bring those at higher risk into hotels while using social distancing rules.

“Even know that we’re doing the best we can to socially distance, we’ve done a lot of work to spread out populations and look for ill individuals, we said ‘the right thing to do is take these high-risk folks and give them a safe place to be.’ We’ll see how long that needs to continue, but we have not put a time frame on it,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, in the suburbs, Hesed House is moving its 200 residents in Aurora to a fully-leased hotel in Schaumburg.

“We’re going to pick up the entire Hesed House operation — everybody who lives here, the people who work here, the entire operations — and we’re going to move it to this hotel,” said Ryan Down of Hesed House.

This comes after at least nine people either tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic.

The state is paying the bill for the hotel for at least two weeks.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic, like the opioid overdose epidemic, has accentuated the need for supportive housing to improve the health of those experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Thomas D. Huggett, Lawndale Christian Health Center.”

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