Just in from Florida? Please cool your heels for a cou­ple of weeks

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

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.

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