WELCOME HOME — TO QUARANTINE
Chicago’s emergency travel order kicks in for travelers from COVID-19 hot spots
Jennifer Carreno was visiting family in Utah when she heard about Chicago’s emergency travel order, which requires people coming to the city from high-COVID states to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Utah is one of those states, but Carreno, who landed Monday at Midway Airport with five other relatives, said she can’t afford to stay home.
Carreno, a cargo worker at O’Hare Airport, flew to Salt Lake City on June 17 to visit family. While there, “none of us really traveled a lot . ... We didn’t go out much.”
Carreno, 22, thought the directive was “kind of weird.”
In announcing the order, the city said it would publicize it on social media and the city’s website, as well as with signs in airports and along highways. It also would direct hotels to inform guests.
Many travelers at Midway on Monday said there were no announcements on their flights. At Midway’s baggage claim area, a single sign about the order stood at the main exit.
The travel order was touted Monday on three billboards along highways near both Midway and O’Hare: “COMING TO CHICAGO FROM A COVID HOT SPOT?/14-DAY SELFQUARANTINE REQUIRED.”
Those violating the order can be fined $100 to $500 per day, up to $7,000.
That worries Carreno, who figures since she works at an airport, the order might be enforced more strictly. Going without income for two weeks means her family would “definitely struggle financially.”
Carreno said there was no announcement on her flight about the travel order.
A Southwest Airlines employee at Midway, who asked not to be identified for fear of getting in trouble, said the city asked the airline to tell passengers self-quarantining is “in their best interest,” though they haven’t received specifics of how to spread that message.
The travel order applies to people coming or returning to Chicago from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. That list of states will be updated every Tuesday, starting July 14.
There are exceptions, such as for essential workers.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday acknowledged she’s “educating people into compliance” with the order. That process will include what she called a “marketing campaign” at O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as those billboards, and posters on CTA trains.
“We’re not gonna send teams out to cite people with violations,” Lightfoot said. The order is more than just a recommendation, “but are we going on planes and saying, ‘Hey, you just came from somewhere. You’ve got to do 14 days of quarantine’? No,” the mayor said.
Still, “if you are coming from a place where the cases are exploding, you have an obligation … to protect yourself, but also to protect your neighbors in this new locale from the spread of the virus.”
City spokeswoman Elena Ivanova said enforcement relies on individual decisions, much like guidelines on masks and social distancing.
“This order was created based on the data we were seeing coming out of other states and the alarming increase in cases,” Ivanova wrote in an email. “Our goal is to discourage nonessential travel and ensure individuals and businesses are aware of the risk for infection and transmission.”
Maureen Cassidy already had planned on two weeks of quarantine, even before the travel order; she’s willing to do whatever it takes so the “pandemic can be tamped down,” she said. Cassidy, who flew to Chicago from Los Angeles Monday, plans to spend a month in Ravenswood visiting her children and grandchildren.
If people spend less than 24 hours in one of the flagged states, they aren’t subject to the two-week self-quarantine. Sylvia Gonzales spent less than a day in Dallas to drop off a personal item before flying through Midway to return to south suburban Matteson. Still, Gonzales, 34, said she plans to stay home for two weeks, especially because she isn’t working right now.
“We need to be safe,” Gonzales said. “We need to put an end to [the virus] so everything can get better.”
The city’s directive mirrors similar actions in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The order includes states that have a rate at or higher than 15 positive cases per every 100,000 people over a sevenday average. The order includes no end date.
When Angel Smith planned a holiday weekend vacation to Los Angeles, she expected time at the beach, meals in restaurants and rides on ATVs. But everything was closed this past weekend, said Smith, 29, who flew back to Midway Monday.
Smith, who lives on the South Side, said she plans to self-quarantine for two weeks “out of respect for others,” though she doesn’t agree with the directive.
“I don’t even know if I have it,” Smith said. “I’m missing out on things that are lucrative and profitable, missing out on work.”
Cars drive under a “Welcome to Chicago” LED sign near O’Hare Airport on Sunday.
Brittany Jordan, 30, who lives on Chicago’s South Side, sits in baggage claim Monday at Midway Airport after returning from Tucson, Arizona. Jordan said she plans to stay home for two weeks, per Chicago’s new travel order. PHOTOS BY CLARE PROCTOR/SUN-TIMES A sign at Midway announces the city’s latest travel order, requiring a 14-day quarantine for people traveling from 15 states with spiking coronavirus cases.