Return of bar-hopping crowds in popular areas causing concern of coronavirus spread

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CHICAGO —  Crowds are returning to many popular weekend spots now Chicago is in a new phase of reopening, sparking new concerns customers will spread COVID-19 by ignoring public health guidelines.

Bar owners say they’re making sure people wear masks when they enter buildings and when they’re not seated at their tables, but there’s not much they can do about groups without masks bouncing from bar to bar outside.

Public health experts say masks are one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. 

Through wearing masks, social distancing and other means Illinois succeeded in flattening the curve. That success led to Phase 4 of the state’s reopening last friday, which allowed bars and restaurants to serve customers inside once again.

Block Club Chicago contributing reporter Colin Boyle observed long lines and few masks as he interviewed a number of people at the bars in Wrigleyville on Saturday.

“It’s hard to social distance when you’re crammed onto this little skinny sidewalk here, but that’s really an excuse,” Boyle said. “One of the people I spoke to, he had just gotten back from Texas the day before, and said he recognized himself as part of the problem, and he was concerned to see people out drinking.”

Jeff Hoffman owns Village Tap in Roscoe Village, and says he’s concerned that if customers don’t follow health guidelines the city could end up taking steps back. 

In Florida, Texas and some California counties, bars have been ordered to close after re-opening amid rising COVID-19 cases.

“It’s up to us as business owners to make sure we are following the guidelines to ensure that we can remain open and viable businesses,” Hoffman said.

Most bars have signs posted saying, “must wear a mask when entering and exiting.” But Wrigleyville resident Laura Rao says she’s avoiding the crowds anyways.

“There were tons of crowds and not a lot of people wearing masks or distancing,” Rao said. “I have no desire to be around any of it, I think it’s risky.”

Erik Castro said he went out over the weekend and isn’t too concerned about getting sick.

“I think the city is trying to get back to what it was before as best as they can,” Castro said.

But Boyle says while covering the story, he hopes people will be covering their faces.

“The pandemic isn’t over – people may or may not think that they are done with the restrictions at hand and wearing a face mask – but we’re far from over; we don’t have a cure yet,” Boyle said.

We don’t know what effect – if any – the crowds will have on the city’s positivity rate, however Mayor Lightfoot has said if cases spike here, she may need to implement more restrictions again.

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