'You Are Not Immune To COVID-19': Lightfoot Sends A Message To Younger Chicagoans, Warns The City Is Close To 'Dangerous Conditions' Again

Mayor Lightfoot, the Chicago Police Department and community leaders announced Monday a new working group designed to review and revise the CPD’s use of force policies.
Photo credit City of Chicago

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady provided an update Wednesday on data related to COVID-19 in Chicago.

"Today, we are coming before the public, because we want to make sure we are alerting you to vital information before we have to take any specific action. We believe that providing the public with additional information, more information, highlighting the information that is out there, will provide individuals with the tools that they need to do their part to make sure we all continue to keep Chicago safe, before we have to take additional steps," Lightfoot said.

"Right now, our priority is keeping the number of new cases as low as possible, especially among young people; caring for and saving the lives of those who are sick; and doing everything within our power to stop this disease."

The Mayor said "make no mistake" every decision the city has made since March "has been difficult" but they have been guided by public health metrics. She said the city will continue to make the decisions necessary to keep Chicagoans safe.

Mayor Lightfoot thanked all of those who have been in compliance with the city and state guidelines, including wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing.

"Your sacrifice, your adherence to the public health guidelines truly has saved lives of your fellow Chicagoans," she said. "You are the reason that everyone has the ability to have some semblance of a normal life, because of the hard work that you have done every day since this pandemic hit Chicago. And on behalf of your fellow Chicagoans, I want to thank you and keep up the good work.

"Unfortunately, there remain some of you who are still not getting the very clear messages we have been sending now for months. So hear this: Despite the fact that the weather might be warm, COVID-19 is still here in Chicago and will be part of our future for the foreseeable future. Yes, our metrics are tracking better than the rest of the country, but that doesn't mean that we can ever let our guard down. It means our precautions are working and that we need to continue to be diligent."

The Mayor specifically addressed the younger generation in Chicago - the 18-29-year-old cohort: "You are not immune to COVID-19. The reality is actually quite different, and the data proves it. Unfortunately, since June 15, nearly 30 percent of the new cases in Chicago have come from those who are 18-29. And we're seeing these increases across race and ethnicity and all over the city. And this should be the proof that you need: If you are in the 18-to-29-year-old cohort, you are catching COVID-19. You are getting sick. And you are not only putting yourself at risk; you're putting every single person that you come into contact with at risk, as well."

To all those younger folks thinking they're immune to COVID-19... none of us are invincible. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay 6 ft apart. https://t.co/5D7ng691f8 pic.twitter.com/HuGBR3qigH

— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) July 15, 2020

She then posed the question: What can you do right now, 18-29-year old Chicagoans? What can you do to turn this around?

  1. Minimize gathering in large groups. "I repeat: The larger the group, the higher risk that someone in that group has COVID-19. So minimize gathering in large groups," Lightfoot said. 
  2. Wear a face covering when you leave your house everywhere. "Not just some of the time, but all of the time. That's critically important to reduce the spread," she said. 
  3. Spread the word, not the disease. "What I mean by that is you need to be an ambassador for the public health guidance. Tell everyone in your network. Tell your family members, tell your friends, that if they do the things you should be doing, which is minimize gathering in large groups, wear a face covering everywhere, social distance at all times, follow the hand hygiene guidelines - if you spread that word you will be not only protecting yourself, but your family, your friends, and everybody in your network that you care about," the Mayor said.

"Let these numbers be yet another reminder that we have to do the right thing in this moment," Lightfoot said.

"Some of you have joked that I am like the mom, who will turn the car around when you are acting up. No friends, it is actually worse. I won't just turn the car around. I'm gonna shut it off, I'm gonna kick you out, and I'm gonna make you walk home. That's who I am. That is who I must be for you and everyone else in this city to make sure that we continue to be safe. But I don't want to be that person if I don't have to. But I will if you make me," she said.

"We are dangerously close to going back to a dangerous state of conditions...so folks we got to get this right. We got to continue to do the right things. If you are a business, we are not afraid to shut you down, and we have proven that. So please step up and do the right thing. Follow the guidance that you know is in place....This vicious disease has already taken millions of lives around the world. And, unfortunately, we're seeing the consequences of that every single day. We do not want to be like other parts of the country that are straining under the burden of new cases and having their health care systems on the verge of collapse. We feared that in Chicago in March, but we avoided that because each of you who has done the right thing understood the necessity of the moment, the sacrifices that needed to be made to make sure that we are all going in the same direction to keep Chicago safe."

The Mayor said the last thing she wants to do is take steps back. She wants to avoid shutting down the economy again.

"But, if we must, we must. And it depends upon each and every person to do the right thing," she said. "The problem isn't just that you're hurting yourself. The problem isn't just that you're hurting people in your network. You're hurting the whole city."

Lightfoot said if the city continues to see an uptick in cases, it will have "no choice" but to go back to Phase Three. Businesses will be shut down and there will be restrictions on mobility again.

"No one wants to go back there, but we will have to go back there if people continue to ignore the public health guidance. Folks, this is our moment of reckoning. This is our moment of whether we are gonna do the right thing in our city. It is gonna determine whether businesses can stay open and we can continue; it is going to determine if we have some semblance of a normal life. I hope that the answer is 'yes.' But it's up to you..." she said.

Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady announced Chicago’s current average number of coronavirus cases is at 192. The city want to keep that number below 200. If the average goes above 200, Chicago will be back in the high-risk category and the city may have to reimpose previous COVID-19 restrictions.

"The fact that we are now under 200 is excellent progress, but we're a long way from done," Dr. Arwady said. "I want to highlight that that 200 number does have importance. So what does 192 cases per day mean in the grand scheme of COVID as we look at our numbers and compare ourselves to other places around the country?...As long as we stay under 200 cases, in that 100-199 range, we remain in what is called 'moderate-high incidence state' - that's a CDC term, but it basically means that we are out of high incidence. We are not yet into moderate incidence, or moderate-low incidence, or low incidence - but it tells us how much COVID is here right now...this is how we make decisions on what we are going to do on a city level...

"As soon as we are back over 200 — and I say 'as soon as' because I do expect, given what we are seeing across the country, that we will likely see some additional increases here — when we get back above 200 we're back in a high incidence state, and for me that means we are back in a caution state. It does not equal an automatic rollback..." Dr. Arwady said.

But she said they will look at problem areas. If they're seeing cases come from bars, the city consider rolling back bars, for example - or long-term care facilities.

"We'll start thinking about pulling back if we need to once we're over 200," Dr. Arwady said. "For you following every day how we're doing in Chicago, that's the number I want you to watch. And I want you to help us...drive that number down. It's how we move ahead in Chicago and not backwards."

Dr. Arwady highlighted that the city is doing more testing than it has ever done before. The goal was set at least 4,500 tests per day, but Dr. Arwady said the current average is at 5,500+ per day.

She said Chicago's at 5.3 percent for positive tests per individuals tested and 3.5 percent for positive tests for tests performed.

"Our daily hospitalizations and deaths look great at this point. Our hospitalizations continue to decline. We have fewer people by and large hospitalized, fewer people in the ICU and fewer people using ventilators. We also have fewer deaths than we've had since March..." Dr. Arwady said.

"I anticipate likely soon we'll have our first day, finally, with no COVID-19 deaths here in Chicago."

She said the city is down to an average of four per day.