Taking a ride on Chicago's West Side on April 5, 2020 | Photo by Darius Griffin [The TRiiBE]

The TRiiBE Team will be posting daily updates about COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus.

In response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois residents are under a “stay at home” order until April 7. All City of Chicago facilities are closed to the public. 

APRIL 6, 2020 — With the COVID-19 expected to peak sometime this month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new initiative with Chicago’s professional sports teams to remind residents to stay home as much as possible and to help get the city back up and running after pandemic subsides. 

“We Are Not Playing” is a two-phase marketing campaign led by the city’s new Chief Marketing Officer, Michael Fassnacht. The first phase is intended to use the popularity of Chicago athletes to drill home the importance of social distancing.

Lightfoot previewed a new commercial under the “We Are Not Playing” banner that included Chicago Bulls point guard Coby White social distancing at home on his couch.

“I’m proud to be joining the Chicago sports team to launch our new campaign, We’re Not Playing. They’re not playing, and neither are we,” Lightfoot said at a morning press conference inside an empty Soldier Field. “Thanks to their support, we’ll be leveraging their vast network to drill down on the message of ‘Stay Home and Save Lives’ here in Chicago and across the state.”

Mayor Lightfoot also took a moment to commend the city’s sports teams — the Bears, the White Sox, the Cubs, the Blackhawks and the Bulls — for supporting their staffs despite shutting down their stadiums and operations. 

The second phase of the “We’re Not Playing” campaign seeks to attract business and tourism to Chicago once the pandemic ends. 

“We see a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel, and in the coming weeks and months Michael [Fassnacht] will be leading our in developing a unified city wide approach to marketing so we can recover from this pandemic,” Lightfoot said at her morning press conference. 

Fassnacht has worked alongside the Mayor’s Office on previous marketing initiatives, including the “Stay Home. Save Lives” campaign. 

“And that, in addition to marketing and branding and a business development strategy to showcase Chicago and attract tourism, [we will bring] talent and corporations back to the greatest city in the world,” Lightfoot continued.

Lightfoot thanked the McDonald’s Corporation, headquartered in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, for donating 750,000 N95 face masks to healthcare professionals and personnel and first responders as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to a press release, the city will add these masks to its repository. In the coming days, city officials will decide where to allocate these masks.

Below is a list of ongoing updates regarding schools, bar and restaurant closures, events, travel and more. 

STAY-AT-HOME ORDER

On March 31, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the stay-at-home order to April 30, following the new social distancing timeline from federal government officials.

The stay-at-home order was initially set to expire on April 7. Pritzker made that order on March 20 in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. The order went into effect on Saturday, March 21 at 5:00 p.m.

Under the order, residents are able to go outdoors for essential needs or business, including trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, medical clinics, gas station and restaurants for takeout or curb-side pickup. However, until April 7, the following businesses are closed: beauty and nail salons, gyms, dining rooms of restaurants, entertainment spaces and venues and bars.

PARKS + LAKEFRONT + 606 TRAIL

On Thursday (March 26), Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the closing of Chicago’s Lakefront, Riverwalk and 606 Trail in response to reports and social media photos of hundreds of people congregating in these areas the day before. 

The executive order, Lightfoot said, is effective immediately and will last until further notice.

“Your conduct is posing a direct threat to our public health,” Lightfoot said at the press conference.

Lightfoot also announced the launch of “Stay Home, Save Lives,” a campaign meant to educate residents on COVID-19. She’ll be calling on celebrities and community leaders to assist with the new campaign.

“This isn’t just a Chicago problem or a suburban problem. It’s a problem we all share, but it’s a problem we can all solve together,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot’s executive order includes shutting down Lakefront adjacent trails, green spaces and facilities, fieldhouses, playgrounds and sport courts at city parks and the Riverwalk trail. The order also prohibits contact sports including basketball, football and soccer.

After a March 25 press conference, Chicago Police Department (CPD) interim Superintendent Charlie Beck drove up and down Lake Shore Drive.

“I saw thousands of people doing things that I personally love to do: walking, biking, running,” he said on Thursday.

Throughout the day, CPD officials gave out at least 56 warnings to crowds of people congregating. On the West Side, in CPD District 11, at least one citation led to an arrest for failure to obey a health order.

“I take no pleasure in enforcing this,” Beck said.

Under Lightfoot’s executive order, CPD will be aggressively ramping up patrols along the Lakefront, at city parks and along the Riverwalk. At any time of the day or night, Beck said, people can be cited or arrested for refusing to obey the order.

“Follow the law,” Beck said. “Don’t make us enforce the law through citation or arrest.”

LOCAL COVID-19 RELIEF

On Friday (March 27), Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new relief program for Chicago residents struggling to pay rents and mortgages during the COVID-19 crisis.

The relief program, called the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant, is a partnership with the city’s Department of Housing (DOH) and the Family Independence Initiative. In the coming weeks, DOH will use $2 million from its Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund to support one-time grants for those impacted by the novel coronavirus.

“Due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we have a responsibility as a city to support our residents and families during their urgent time of need,” Lightfoot expressed in a press release. “This program represents a critical resource not only to our communities, but our entire city as we navigate this evolving challenge to ensure every Chicagoan remains safe, healthy and secure.”

As of now, there will be 2,000 grants of $1,000 each awarded through the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant. Half of the grants will be given out through a lottery system. The other half will be distributed by nonprofit organizations across Chicago. 

Applicants can apply online at www.chicago.gov/coronavirus or through participating nonprofit organizations. The application deadline is April 1st at 11:59 p.m. central time. Click here for the online application form. 

In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must show a recent unemployment insurance claim, notification of employment status change and proof of household income at or below 60% of the area median income prior to job loss.

State officials also shared updates on support services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Department of Family & Support Services’ Homeless Outreach and Prevention program. According to Grace Hou, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), monthly SNAP benefits will increase dramatically due to the recent passage of the Federal Family First Legislation.

Before COVID-19, a single person with a disability or an older adult with a monthly income less than $2,000 would be eligible for $16 in monthly SNAP benefits. Now, they’re eligible for $194, Hou said. 

IDHS also has $6 million in new funding to support the continuance of care for those experiencing homeless and in need of shelter during the crisis.

On March 26, Penny Pritzker announced that she is chairing the new Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, and has already raised $23 million. The money will be dispersed to nonprofits across the state helping families, communities and individuals hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. More information can be found at https://www.ilcovidresponsefund.org/

On March 29, Pritzker expressed concern about reports of nurses and health care workers being kicked out of apartments, or denied rentals, in other states over fears of infections. Although he hasn’t heard of this happening in Illinois, he had a message for the state’s landlords.

“Let me be clear, that will not be tolerated in our state.”

Evictions are prohibited in Illinois during the COVID-19 crisis, Pritzker continued. If any health care worker is experiencing difficulty with a landlord, Pritzker said they should immediately contact the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

VOLUNTEER EFFORTS TO INCREASE HEALTHCARE CAPACITY

In an effort to increase healthcare capacity, Gov. Pritzker announced on March 30 that the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers will assist in turning McCormick Place in downtown Chicago into a field hospital.

According to a press release from the National Guard, about 30 Illinois Air National Guard members will help with construction. And another 10 airmen arrived at McCormick Place today to help. 

By the end of April, Gov. Pritzker hopes to have 3,000 beds at McCormick Place, which will be dedicated to non-acute COVID-19 patients — those who are not likely in need of a formal ICU. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Ezike and Pritzker at the press conference. She said McCormick Place will help with the anticipated surge in COVID-19 case numbers.

“We have to lessen the stress on our healthcare system and first responders in this fight,” Lightfoot said.

She also called on Chicagoans with medical training to sign up for healthcare jobs and volunteer efforts. Anyone who is interested in delivering food assistance or childcare as well, are more than welcome to help out. Those interested in volunteering can visit the resources page at chicago.gov/coronavirus for more information. 

“If you have medical training, we have a job for you,” Lightfoot said.

BARS + RESTAURANTS + GROCERY STORES + EVENTS

State officials also are working with grocers who are seeing major surges in shoppers because of coronavirus fears. Pritzker said he’s asking grocery stores to end prohibitions on overnight grocery deliveries.

He’s also asking residents not to panic buy.

“Please do not hoard food. Buy what you need but please be reasonable,” Pritzker said. “There is enough food to go around.”

On March 15, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new measures for bars and liquor establishments. 

“Due to concerns around St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the city is enforcing all businesses that sell liquor to have less than half of their regular max capacity,” Lightfoot wrote on Twitter. “Additionally, any establishments that sell liquor will have a max capacity of 100 people.”

Lightfoot made this announcement after disappointment over the long lines and crowds at bars during St. Patrick’s Day weekend. At a press conference last week, Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker cancelled St. Patrick’s Day parades across the city due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

On March 12, Gov. Pritzker instituted a ban on community events with more than 1,000 people in attendance. He also asked community events expecting more than 250 attendees to postpone them until May 1.

SCHOOLS

All K-12 schools in Illinois will be closed beginning Tuesday, March 17. Schools are expected to reopen next month, but officials say the timeline could change depending on how the coronavirus pandemic plays out. 

“In light of this order, the best place for a student to be is at home,” Lightfoot said at a March 13 press conference following Pritzker’s order to close schools statewide. 

Dr. Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), stood by Lightfoot at the conference. She explained that all CPS schools will be undergoing a deep cleaning, and that the schools will serve as food distribution centers.

CPS is using its buildings to distribute grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to children between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. every day. Children can go to any CPS school building to pick up food, Pritzker added.

TRAVEL

On the evening of March 14, Gov. Pritzker tweeted his frustration with the federal government after photos surfaced of hundreds of returning travelers waiting in line for hours at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. 

On March 14, Vice President Mike Pence announced an extension of the European travel ban to include the UK and Ireland. The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens or their family members. 

This announcement created a surge of travelers returning to the U.S., which led to heavy crowds at international airports across the country. 

“What should’ve happened, they should have increased the [U.S.] Customs and Border Protection [agent] numbers and then should have increased the number of [Centers for Disease Control] personnel on the ground doing those [coronavirus] checks,” Pritzker said March 15 on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” 

By Sunday afternoon, Pritzker had received news from Vice President Pence and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that CPB will be increasing its staff at O’Hare. 

Anyone traveling back to the U.S. during the travel ban will be funneled through one of 13 U.S. international airports that are being equipped to do special screenings in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

John F. Kennedy International Airport;

Chicago O’Hare International Airport;

San Francisco International Airport; 

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; 

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Honolulu, Hawaii; 

Los Angeles International Airport; 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; 

Washington-Dulles International Airport; 

Newark Liberty International Airport; 

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; 

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW); 

Boston Logan International Airport; and 

Miami International Airport.

This story is published on thetriibe.com in partnership with Free Spirit Media’s experimental “learning newsroom” program, The Real Chi.