Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned that the city is getting “dangerously close to a dangerous state of conditions,” as the coronavirus case numbers continue to climb. After the sustained decrease that led to the lifting of many restrictions, the city is now averaging 192 cases a day. So, where are all these new cases coming from? It turns out 30 percent of Chicago’s new cases in recent weeks can be traced to young people ages 18-29 in the Lincoln Park area.
The June 26 easing of restrictions allowed for the reopening of bars and restaurants to indoor dining and gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Local residents report the “packing” of Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville bars and restaurants by guests, often not wearing face coverings or social distancing.
Ald. Michelle Smith (43rd) called the situation “embarrassing.” “The bars are open, everyone is out now because it’s the summer, we have a pretty young ward and people have been ignoring the guidance,” Smith said.
Younger People Are Driving Surges Across the Country
Other states have already begun to face the consequences of reopening bars, and other places young people gather, too soon. The New York Times reported last month that young people accounted for the majority of new cases in several emerging hotspots, including Florida and Texas.
A Second Round of Closures Could Be on the Horizon
Mayor Lightfoot warned yesterday that if this worrying trend continues and we see more cases sourced to bars, restaurants and gyms, those places may face new closures.
The city will crack down on bars, restaurants, gyms and other hot spots for young people if coronavirus cases among young Chicagoans continue to rise, Mayor Lightfoot said. https://t.co/SbRH6oQxJ2 pic.twitter.com/CMaXDjBDXV
— Block Club Chicago (@BlockClubCHI) July 14, 2020
And, if Chicago begins to see numbers climb to more than 400 new cases per day, officials warned that the city might face a full rollback to Phase 3.
Similar Trends Are Happening in the Suburbs
The city isn’t the only place in the Chicagoland area where we’re seeing an increase in cases tied to activity among young people. At least 36 students at Lake Zurich High School have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We need people to take a real hard look at their own individual behavior,” Lake County health spokeswoman Hannah Goering told the Chicago Tribune. Goering also noted that both large and small gatherings among different groups of friends are contributing to the increase in cases.
While complications remain less common among young people without preexisting conditions, their ability to expose higher-risk relatives and members of the community makes this trend extremely worrying, particularly as Illinois looks to avoid taking huge steps back on the state’s progress in the fight against coronavirus.
Are you worried about the increase in COVID-19 cases linked to younger members of your community? Join the conversation on our social media channels.
How you can help:
Practice social distancing and wear a mask when you leave your house. If you are looking to give back, the Chicago Community Trust COVID-19 Response Fund is supporting local nonprofit organizations serving our region’s most vulnerable neighbors.
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Brooke Geiger McDonald is a Chicago native who has worked for O, The Oprah Magazine and Shape magazine in New York and for various book publishers in London. Back home in Chicago, she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons, and the four of them are certifiable Disney and Star Wars fanatics, always counting down the days to their next Disney vacation. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago and organizations focused on environmental conservation and combatting climate change, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.