Just in from Florida? Please cool your heels for a couple of weeks
If only for the shaming factor, it’s worth a shot. We can’t imagine how Chicago will enforce a new rule that anyone arriving in the city from a state that has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases must self-quarantine for two weeks. As a practical matter, Chicago police have enough to worry about without having to issue fines to people recently arriving from, say, Florida or Texas for wandering around town instead of staying put indoors.
But as a matter of raising awareness about the need for travelers from hot spot states to quarantine — and prodding them to do so — Chicago’s rule, which went into effect Monday, is on firm ground.
Chicago protecting itself
Chicago has worked hard, and sacrificed much, to beat back the spread of the coronavirus. It’s only right that the city should protect itself from the irresponsible actions of other cities and states that have done much less and are paying the price.
Chicago’s travel-related quarantine rule, imposed a week after New Jersey, Connecticut and New York State jointly imposed a similar rule, affects travelers from 15 states that have seen significant increases in cases of COVID-19. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Not surprisingly, all but two of those states — California and Nevada — were carried by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and 11 are presided over by Republican governors who continue to cower before the denier-in-chief in the White House. When Trump has sneered about face masks and social distancing, they have sneered, too, or — just as unconscionable — declined to call out his stupidity.
When it comes to domestic travel quarantines that pit cities and states against each other, common sense calls for clear and consistent national guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control. But that’s never going to happen under this president, who has failed from the beginning to lead in the fight against COVID-19.
And so cities and states are rolling out their own rules of quarantine, applying inconsistent standards.
Chicago, for example, has decided that its new 14-day quarantine rule will apply to people arriving from states where the virus infection rate exceeds 15 people per 100,000 residents on a seven-day rolling average. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, meanwhile, have imposed a considerably more stringent standard — an infection rate that exceeds 10 people per 100,000.
The honor system
In Chicago, people who violate the new quarantine order can be fined $100 to $500 a day, up to $7,000, but ultimately, this looks to us like another job for the honor system. It’s entirely in keeping with all the earlier pleas that we wear masks, avoid crowds and limit visits to Grandma.
Violators of the order, we suspect, are not likely to be fined in huge numbers. The appeal is to our better angels. To our sense of compassion.
Because, you know, Grandma really could die.
Unfortunately, the honor system hasn’t always worked that well during this pandemic.
Witness the shoulder-toshoulder young people gathered around pools in Florida and outside bars in Chicago, behaving less than honorably. Witness a president, a man who is seemingly always less than honorable, encouraging his gullible admirers to jostle together in close quarters for a nice MAGA rally.
Much of the American South, in particular, is now contending with a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases that did not have to happen, had its political leaders only been more honorable. In Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis once brushed off concerns about the coronavirus as just a lot of “doom and gloom and hysteria,” more than 10,000 new cases are being reported daily.
So, yeah, if you’ve just gotten into town from Florida, selfquarantine for 14 days. Same goes if you’ve arrived from one of those other 14 states. With all respect, spare us your presence for a couple of weeks. Chicago has worked hard to get where Florida is not, and we’re by no means home free yet.
Back in May, Chicago health officials reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases and 50 deaths per day. Now the city is seeing well under 200 cases and the death toll decreasing.
Taking personal responsibility
If our nation is ever going to beat this thing, it will be because enough Americans finally wise up. They’ll figure out a mask is not a political statement. They’ll come to understand a request to self-quarantine is not a form of punishment.
It’s just what we must do to beat a bug that doesn’t give a damn about politics.
Chicago’s new order is all about asking people to take personal responsibility. The threat of a fine is there — and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office tells us she’s serious about that — but the real motivator will be our own conscience.
“Our success at continued containment,” a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Health told us, “depends on the collective sum of positive, individual-level decisions.”
Everything we do in this fight, we do for each other.
Travelers wear masks in mid-June at O’Hare Airport. As of Monday, Chicago is requiring people who arrive in town from any of 15 states with high rates of COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for two weeks.