Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot moved this weekend to close off some of the city’s shores after dozens of people were seen packed together in a park without masks or social distances.
Lightfoot personally observed the ill-advised gathering Saturday afternoon at Montrose Beach, calling the partygoers on Twitter.
“It’s called a pandemic, folks,” the mayor wrote alongside a photo of at least 50 people scantily clad in bikinis and swimming trunks with no masks in sight.
“This reckless behavior on Montrose Beach is causing us to close the parks and the lake. Don’t let us step back. ‘
Lightfoot followed her threat when hours later city workers installed a fence around the park, leaving the path along the lake open but closing off areas for people to gather.
The move came as Chicago continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, prompting officials to put in place some restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot visited Montrose Beach in Chicago on Saturday and tweeted a photo showing dozens of mask-free people who seemed to be ignoring social distance rules
Lightfoot denounced the ‘reckless behavior’ on Twitter and threatened to close the shores of the lake
Lightfoot followed her threat when hours later city workers installed a fence around the park
A man who saw Lightfoot visit Montrose Beach on Saturday said the photos and videos taken by the mayor and her cameraman were misleading.
“In person and in person, it’s not as bad as that photo suggests,” Mick Montesi said CBS2and notes that similar gatherings have taken place along the lake in the past two months.
Justin Schneider, who has a boat in Montrose Harbor, said Saturday’s crowd was ‘absolutely no social distance’ [and] many people did not wear masks’.
“I understand where her frustration and concern comes from,” Schneider said of Lightfoot.
But he added, “Where are people expected to go when the beaches are closed, is it 95 degrees outside?”
Officials have acknowledged that the continued closure of beaches is prompting people to pack up in park areas, but say the reckless rallies in parks show that people cannot be trusted to use the beaches safely.
In the hours after Lightfoot tweeted her photo of Montrose Beach, police officers were seen patrolling the area and ordering people to disperse.
Witness Miles Kampf-Lassin criticized the closure on Twitter, insisting the groups were scattered there.
He shared a photo of an officer telling a people at the lake to leave, writing, “The officer just told this couple he didn’t want to do it, but” the mayor tells them to go to the bar. “
“It doesn’t seem like a great policy approach to an airborne pandemic,” Kampf-Lassin added.
In the hours after Lightfoot tweeted her photo of Montrose Beach, police officers were seen patrolling the area and ordering people to disperse. Witness Miles Kampf-Lassin criticized the closure on Twitter, insisting the groups were scattered there
Police also saw cars turning away from Montrose Beach on Saturday evening and told visitors it was closed.
Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons confirmed that a fence had been erected around the site of the big meeting.
“ The Chicago Park District installed a fence on Montrose Beach to deter large gatherings like the one seen (Saturday), ” Lemons told the Chicago Tribune.
While the lake path is open, the beaches and parkland of Chicago east of Lake Shore Drive remain closed under the executive order of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Meanwhile, the police also worked to disperse the crowd on the lake near Belmont.
The crackdown occurred just a day after the city gave 13 of Chicago’s lakeside restaurants to reopen.
Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons confirmed a fence had been erected around the site of the big rally
Crowds cool off along lake shores in Chicago on July 14, as city officials blamed social gatherings for a fresh surge in coronavirus cases
Chicago’s beaches remain closed because paths along the lake are open
Several people expressed their frustration with Lightfoot on Twitter, saying that restricting open spaces only exacerbated the density of customers in restaurants.
One person tweeted a photo of a packed restaurant and wrote, ‘You allow this restaurant to open a few feet from Montrose Beach, but not the giant beach just beyond. Shut up. ‘
Another replied to Lightfoot’s tweet with a photo of another busy eatery, writing, ‘Oh but this busy cafe at Diversey is fine, right? Because it is rich people who bring in income.
‘You’re irrational, Lori. Start by listening to science and logic. ‘
Yet another critic shared a moment when park employees put the fence in place and noted that many of them were not wearing masks.
‘It’s called a pandemic Lori! Your staff won’t distance themselves socially with masks as they disrupt an otherwise safe afternoon at Montrose Beach. ‘
The mayor’s office raised the alarm about a fresh increase in coronavirus cases in a July 20 press release as it restored some restrictions, including shrinking party sizes in bars and restaurants.
The release charged that the wave was fueled in part by young people who gathered in social settings such as bars, restaurants, parks and the lake.
“ If we’re going to win the biggest public health challenge we’ve ever faced, none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines and warm up the couches, ” Lightfoot said in another statement the same week.
“We can’t afford to let go of our guard – it’s time to team up with your masks.”
As of Sunday, 63,876 coronavirus cases and 2,809 deaths have been reported in Chicago.
Daily new cases have continued to rise over the past month, according to the province’s health data.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker also expressed concern about the situation in the state on Sunday, after more than 2,000 new cases were reported daily on Friday and Saturday.
Pritzker implored residents to adhere to mask guidelines, saying, ‘Imagine if someone could walk into a restaurant, light a cigarette, blow smoke in your face, and all the smoker had to say is : ‘Well, it’s my choice. ”
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, added, “ We see the number of cases increasing every day and hear about people who don’t adhere to the masking mandate.
“This rule is an attempt to keep us all healthy and reduce the risk of COVID-19.”
It came when the governor’s office announced new rules, giving local officials more power to enforce guidelines for social gatherings and masks.
The rules include fines of up to $ 2,500 for companies that fail to follow the guidelines.