Hours after Lightfoot announces new COVID-19 restrictions, Birx warns during Chicago visit that closing public spaces won’t be enough

CHICAGO — Just hours after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions on businesses in response to rising COVID-19 cases, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx cautioned that closing public spaces won’t be enough to stop the illness’s spread.



a person wearing a suit and tie: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.


© Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Birx said it’s possible some of the recent spread is happening in people’s homes, during family gatherings, as the weather gets colder. She spoke at a news conference following a private meeting with leaders from Rush University System for Health, Northwestern Medicine and the Illinois and Chicago departments of public health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Thursday.

“It won’t be as simple as closing public spaces because public spaces … were very safe over the summer and probably remain safe,” Birx said. “This is really something that has happened in the last three to four weeks. What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that people have moved their social gatherings indoors.”

On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew for nonessential businesses and no more indoor service at bars that don’t serve food. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also announced tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings in suburban counties with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

On Thursday the state announced 4,942 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the statewide rolling positivity rate stood at 5.7%, up from 3.7% two weeks earlier. In Illinois, 2,463 patients were in the hospital with COVID-19, according to Thursday figures, up from 1,812 two weeks earlier.

Birx also said Thursday that she advocated for weekly testing while meeting privately with hospital and public health leaders.

She said, at the news conference, that finding the “silent cases” and asymptomatic cases is “critical in preventing community spread.”

She recommended asking certain community members — such as community college students, teachers or hospital workers — if they would be willing to be tested weekly. She said universities that have tested students weekly have had more success limiting infections than those that only tested students who had been directly exposed to COVID-19 or had symptoms.

Birx said testing, along with mask-wearing and social distancing, are key to getting the spread of COVID-19 under control.

When asked what she’s doing to get President Donald Trump to understand the importance of social distancing and mask-wearing, she said: “My public health guidance is consistent no matter who I’m speaking to. I think you can see there’s a diversity of how people relate to that message.”

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot Warns Some Phase 3 Restrictions May Return As COVID-19 Cases Rise Sharply

CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing a “very concerning increase” in COVID-19 cases not only in Chicago but across the country, Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned that the city might be forced to move back to some Phase 3 restrictions soon if the city can’t get get the outbreak under better control.

“Make no mistake. We are in the second surge,” Lightfoot said Monday morning.

Lightfoot said, over past two weeks, the number of confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 in Chicago has risen more than 50%, to more than 500 per day. She said that’s the highest number of daily cases Chicago has seen since the tail end of the first spike of cases in May.

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, the city’s 7-day average positivity rate is up 29% in the past week, rising from 4.2% to 5.4%. Lightfoot said the city also has seen a “worrying increase” in hospitalizations.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the COVID-19 hospitalizations in Chicago have risen 25% since late September.

“These numbers are extremely troubling, and are consistent with what we’ve been seeing across Illinois, and really across the country and world,” Lightfoot said.

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Arwady said new COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically across all age groups, races, and ethnicities. She said the overall rate of new cases is increasing at a rate similar to the start of the first wave of cases in March, April, and May.

“We are sounding this alarm because the increase is real,” she said.

Lightfoot said, if the city doesn’t see those rates begin to drop soon, she will be forced to reinstate some COVID-19 restrictions that were lifted earlier this year.

“If we don’t see a dramatic turnaround in our numbers, and soon, we will not hesitate to take the steps that are necessary to save our city, to save our residents, and even if that means going back to some of our Phase Three restrictions,” she said.

The mayor did not specify what Phase 3 restrictions she might put back into place, but under Phase 3 of the city’s reopening plan, bars and restaurants were not allowed to serve customers indoors. Many stores and businesses were allowed to be open at 50% capacity, but non-essential businesses were limited to 25% capacity. Theaters, cinemas, and other performing arts venues were closed under Phase 3. Gyms and healthclubs were limited to outdoor classes or one-on-one training. Public gatherings were limited to 10 people or fewer.

The mayor said she realizes resuming some Phase 3 restrictions would be potentially devastating for businesses that already have been struggling during the pandemic, but she said if COVID cases continue to surge, she will have no choice.

“I don’t want to go there, particularly for those who are in business; the small businesses who have already suffered through a very difficult year. This would be a tragedy for many of them, but I’ve got to do what is right to protect us from this

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