AS TEMPERATURES STAY HIGH, LIGHTFOOT ORDERS PARK DISTRICT TO OPEN SPLASH POOLS
Beaches, swimming pools stay closed
With temperatures continuing to rise well into the 90s, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she has ordered the Chicago Park District to open its splash pools but keep beaches and other swimming pools closed.
Ever since she partially reopened the lakefront — for transit and exercise only — Chicagoans chomping at the bit to take a dip in Lake Michigan or dive into a pool to get some relief from the summer heat have been asking whether beaches and pools would be next.
The answer came Monday during a City
Hall news conference called to tout a utility bill relief program included in the mayor’s 2020 budget.
“We don’t see the beaches opening up any time soon,” the mayor said.
“The challenge with the beaches — and with swimming pools, let’s just add that in — is that they are ripe for congregate gathering and not social distancing. … Given where we are — which is progress, but we have some concerns — we’re not gonna take any steps that could tip us ... backwards. So, for now, the beaches and swimming pools will remain closed.”
Chicago has endured a steady string of days with temperatures soaring into the 90s. More of the same is forecast before temperatures finally break Saturday.
“We’ve got cooling centers that we’ve opened up. We’ve got cooling buses that are gonna be available. We’re gonna be opening up the splash pools in the parks so that adults and children can get some relief,” Lightfoot said.
“But I don’t see a circumstance yet because I don’t think the public health metrics will allow for it where we’re gonna be opening up the beaches or swimming pools.”
10 businesses cited for COVID capacity violations
Last week, Lightfoot threatened to shut down bars and restaurants that defy city capacity limits, warning: “If we shut you down, you’re not coming back any time soon.”
Lightfoot delivered that toughlove message during a conference call with bar and restaurant owners. She told them the July Fourth holiday weekend was “make-orbreak” for them. Abide by the rules or “suffer the consequences.”
Monday, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection reported its task force of investigators conducted “49 full investigations” in entertainment districts across the city, including River North, Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, in response to consumer complaints.
In the end, 10 citations — each with the threat of a $10,000 fine — were issued to five businesses accused of failing to maintain social distance.
The department also worked with the Chicago Police Department’s Marine Unit to shut down Chicago Lakefront Cruises in response to violations that appalled the mayor after she saw pictures of a crowded cruise posted on social media.
“That was unbelievably irresponsible. … They had no pretense of social distancing. They had every single person that was on that boat — almost a hundred people — crammed into the top deck. If you’ve seen the pictures of it, it’s just outrageous. I saw it on Saturday evening, and you can be sure that I let off a few colorful words [about] the stupidity of this boat,” Lightfoot said.
“We shut them down on Saturday night. The marine unit brought them back into port. We got everybody off the boat. And there’s gonna be consequences for them. As I said last week, the time of saying, ‘Pretty please’ and ‘Won’t you’ and trying to educate — that’s over. They chose to do something that was a clear violation, that put every single one of those people on that boat at risk. They put their profits over public health.”
Help available with utility bills
The utility billing relief plan got a “soft launch” in April. The city has already enrolled 3,315 Chicagoans eligible for $2.9 million in debt forgiveness after sending out notices to nearly 8,000 eligible homeowners. That’s an average of nearly $900 of relief per-customer.
“Once you enroll in this program, your water and sewer bill will be cut by 50% — creating much needed space in tight budgets. Not only will you get relief on payments moving forward, you’ll also have the opportunity to have your debt forgiven if you make all your payments after a year in the program,” Lightfoot said.
“When the deck is stacked against families, our whole city suffers. It is absolutely critical that we help thousands of our families escape the crippling cycle of debt that keeps them in a constant state of struggle. … This is what equity and inclusion looks like.”
Officially, Chicago’s beaches remain closed. But with temperatures in the 90s again, that mayoral order didn’t stop these people from jumping into Lake Michigan from this spot along the Lakefront Trail near West Diversey Parkway on Monday afternoon.