Call that symbolic of the state of the pandemic here.
From a strict health standpoint, it’s hard to deny Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker a well-earned victory lap for their response to the pandemic. Their plan was early, thorough and comprehensive. And it worked, as the number of cases and hospitalizations has plummeted even as the amount of testing has soared.
In comparison, the latest numbers out of early-to-reopen Florida are absolutely horrifying, with all the statistics headed in the wrong direction. I talked to one top Illinois Republican today who says he likely won’t attend the Republican National Convention there in August because he’s worried about becoming infected.
So, good for Pritzker and Lightfoot.
But as everything reopens, there has to be a logic and a fairness to what occurs, lest people just ignore the rules and do what they want. Like the lakeshore parks, which still haven’t officially reopened but unofficially are quite busy. In some cases the reopening—who can gather and under what circumstances—has, intentionally or not, taken on an arbitrary cast that won’t help the continuing campaign to beat COVID-19.
For instance, the state Republican Party yesterday sued Pritzker to overturn his order generally limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
Churches now have only advisory guidelines. Pritzker himself stood should-to-shoulder with protesters at a demonstration with thousands of people for police reform. But 11 Republicans can’t gather under any circumstances to talk politics just months before an election that’s at the core of American democracy?
They have a point, even if Trump takes it to the opposite extreme by planning huge, maskless assemblies in places such as Oklahoma where the latest COVID-19 numbers are bad.
Another example: All Chicago parks off the lakefront are supposedly open. But all the drinking fountains are off. “For hygiene purposes,” says a spokeswoman. And on the weekends, when people most want to be out with their families in the park, all of the fieldhouses are closed. That means there are no restrooms, something I found out while biking through Humboldt and Wicker parks.
Apparently Chicago harbors are reopening. But I haven’t yet received a specific date—or an explanation of why being way out on the water away from others is a health hazard. And all pools remain indefinitely closed—despite CDC rules that say chlorine almost certainly kills the virus. Officials say they don’t want people to congregate in dressing rooms.
Then there are the mayor’s new rules on reopening bars for outside services. They have to close by 11 p.m. and have to stop serving drinks to go at 9 p.m. Why? Because sidewalk cafes that serve food close at 11, and because package liquor stores were ordered closed at 9 after a few drew crowds of drinkers in their parking lots, I’m told. But there’s a difference between a store with a big parking lot and a bar with a few tables, especially when beer garden licenses are good until midnight.
And I still am trying to figure out why gyms, a necessity for health just as much as a grocery store or a face mask, are open only to wealthy people. That’s because, with safety protocols and capacity limits, you can go to a gym with your trainer, who you have to pay $50 or $100 an hour, but you can’t go yourself under the same safety protocols and capacity limits.
The point is that such seeming arbitrariness undercuts public support for the critical rules that the mayor and governor have successfully implemented. Too many mistakes will only build support to throw open the doors and reopen everything tomorrow. And that would be a mistake, as in today’s shocking news that Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has tested positive.
Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, folks. Most people appreciate what’s been accomplished and want to follow the rules, if only for their own safety. But it’s a hard ask. Don’t make it harder.