The city of Chicago is threatening to arrest or issue $500 fines to people who refuse to comply with the state-wide stay at home order for Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and acting-police chief Charlie Beck issued the stark warning on Wednesday saying the city would no longer tolerate people congregating in public places.
They vowed to start arresting or issuing $500 citations to those who continued to ignore the state-wide stay at home order, which is in place until April 7 to encourage social distancing.
It comes after large crowds of people were spotted out in public over the weekend, including near Chicago’s Lake Michigan, as they took advantage of warmer temperatures.
‘This situation is deadly serious and we have to take it seriously,’ Lightfoot said.
Beck, the city’s interim police superintendent, said the public health orders were not an advisory.
‘They are a legal mandate and violation of this legal mandate is a misdemeanor,’ he said.
‘If you violate it, you are subject to a citation, a fine of up to $500, and if you continue to violate it, you will be subject to physical arrest.’
The mayor went on to say she would force compliance if it came down to it. She said police would be deployed to shut down large gatherings if it comes to it.
‘If people don’t take this in a serious way in which they must, I’m not going to hesitate to pull every lever at my disposal to force compliance if necessary,’ she said.
She is now also considering closing down the city’s parks and famous lakefront completely.
Lightfoot said the drastic action would come because people are gathering ‘like it’s just another day’ despite the stay at home order.
‘We are reminding everyone that while it is acceptable to leave your homes to go on walks near your homes, and to purchase food and other essentials, you have to stay at home as much as possible,’ she said.
‘You cannot go on long bike rides, walks, runs along the lakefront where you’re going to be congregating with lots of other people. The same applies to neighborhood parks, and particularly playgrounds.
‘The longer we don’t follow this order, the longer this crisis will last, the sicker people will get, and the harder the strain on our healthcare system.’
Across the US, roughly half of the population have been affected by stay-at-home orders in at least 18 states.
The US death toll has now risen to 1,074 with more than 70,000 confirmed cases.