WISCONSIN, THREE OTHER STATES ADDED TO CITY COVID TRAVEL ORDER
City hints to start ticketing violators as list grows to 22 states, including Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota
Four more states — Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota — are being added to Chicago’s 14-day travel quarantine and compliance will no longer be purely voluntary. Ticketing is coming.
With 22 states now on the list, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is upping the ante by threatening tickets with fines ranging from $100-to-$500-a-day and a maximum of $7,000.
“The primary goal is education here, but we have the ability to enforce and do want people to understand that we’re serious about this. … Where they are putting others at risk and not abiding by the required quarantine — particularly if they’re flaunting that — we have the ability to … write tickets,” Arwady said in a conference call with City Hall reporters.
Tickets will be issued primarily during the course of investigations and the contact tracing that follows, she said.
“If we identify people who have COVID who have had contacts with folks who have traveled from settings that they should have been under quarantine at the time of exposure, that would warrant a ticket,” Arwady said.
“Similarly, we’ve been receiving some information about even city employees who may not have appropriately abided by quarantine. In addition to any discipline, we may elect to impose a fine. … And then, finally, there are some social media examples where people are flagrantly posting their social activities.”
All four new states officially fall under the quarantine order starting Friday.
Travelers entering or returning to Chicago from those states or the other 18 must quarantine for 14 days from the “time of their last contact” in the prohibited state.
The order does not apply to “essential workers” and employees commuting to jobs in Wisconsin. That would include the Cubs traveling to Milwaukee to play the Brewers and to St. Louis to play the Cardinals or the Sox playing the Royals in Kansas City. Also exempt: those traveling for medical care or “parental shared custody.”
But those people still must follow standard precautions — wearing a face mask, maintaining social distance and hand hygiene.
They also must take extra steps, including: confining themselves to “work-related activities,” avoiding public spaces as much as possible and monitoring their temperature and symptoms.
Arwady said she’s well aware August is family vacation month — even during a pandemic — and many Chicagoans often plan trips to the Wisconsin Dells or Door County. Among the visitors: Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has a summer home in Wisconsin.
“I know how hard this is … I know that’s disappointing and hard for people. But it is unfortunately where we are,” Arwady said.
“The state of Wisconsin has not even put a mask requirement in place. And there’s not a sign that they are turning their outbreak around. … There is significant risk at this point and, more importantly, there’s significant risk to Chicago when folks do return.”
Arwady advised Chicagoans to either stay closer to home or head to Michigan, which has a “much lower rate” of COVID than Wisconsin.
Those who insist on going to vacation homes in Wisconsin must be able to work from home on their return, she said.
The gloom-and-doom didn’t end there, even as Arwady reiterated her determination to keep Chicago the “most open big city” in the nation, as City Hall likes to say.
Asked if she agrees with Pritzker that mask-wearing will be required well into next year, the commissioner strongly agreed — and more.
She expects a vaccine to become available in early 2021. But a full roll-out will likely take a year due to “production and distribution” issues and the vaccine will “probably not be 100% protective,” Arwady said.
Face masks in public and other “mitigation efforts to control the spread” will continue to be required.
“We’re planning in the Health Department in a two-to-three year frame. … And I don’t know that we’ll ever get to a point where COVID will be eradicated, to be perfectly honest.”
Chicago’s positivity rate stands at 5.4 percent, up from 4.9 percent on Monday, Arwady said. The number of daily cases stands at 240, up from 229 cases the day before.
The rise concerns Arwady, but she doesn’t “get too excited about one day of change.”
It’s when the number of daily cases rises above 400 that alarm bells will go off and a major rollback will be required, she said.
“Now is the opportunity to do everything we can to get our local outbreak under control. This quarantine requirement is part of that strategy.”
“NOW IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO GET OUR LOCAL OUTBREAK UNDER CONTROL. THIS QUARANTINE REQUIREMENT IS PART OF THAT STRATEGY.”
DR. ALLISON ARWADY, City Health Commissioner