WEL­COME HOME — TO QUAR­AN­TINE

Chicago’s emer­gency travel or­der kicks in for trav­el­ers from COVID-19 hot spots

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLARE PROC­TOR, STAFF RE­PORTER cproc­tor@sun­times.com | @ce­proc­tor23 Con­tribut­ing: Fran Spiel­man

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.”

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/ SUN-TIMES

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.

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