CHICAGO — Saying Indiana is experiencing a “badly controlled outbreak” of COVID-19, the City of Chicago has added the state to its quarantine list.
On Tuesday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady made Indiana the 26th state and territory affected by an Emergency Travel Order, which the city started in July, because Indiana now is reporting more than 15 daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
“All around us there is trouble. Wisconsin has a very poorly controlled outbreak. Indiana has a badly controlled outbreak,” Arwady said. “Right now is the time to double down on what we know works.”
Arwady said the city officially is recommending no one from Chicago visit any of the states on the list, including Indiana, and no one from any of the listed states come to Chicago.
At the same time, she acknowledged many people from Chicago neighborhoods bordering Indiana, and Hoosiers who live near Chicago regularly cross the border to shop or go out to eat, sometimes multiple times a day.
“Please don’t go unless you really need to go,” Arwady pleaded. “We have no goal here in Chicago except to control the spread of COVID, and that area [near the state line] has repeatedly been a hot spot area for us.”
The order directs travelers entering or returning to Chicago from states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases to quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state.
The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and does not apply to the rest of Illinois.
In announcing the restriction, Arwady said “one of the best ways [to be safe] is to not have unnecessary exposure to high-risk settings for COVID. And Indiana has, different than Chicago, loosened all restrictions related to COVID-19. ... a lot of the science-based things that we have in place here, ranging from masks, to sizes of gatherings, to distance at a restaurant, are currently not in place [there].”
For Indiana, the order applies to individuals going to Chicago for non-work purposes; and Chicago residents returning from those states, unless they are deemed an essential worker.
Exceptions for personal travel will be permitted for medical care and parental shared custody. People who commute across the state line to work or go to school are also exempt. But workers from Indiana are expected to avoid Chicago restaurants, bars and other public spaces.
Otherwise, individuals who travel to Indiana, even if for less than 24 hours, need to quarantine upon returning unless deemed an essential worker or a student who commutes for school.
The order will not affect operations of the South Shore Line, according to Michael Noland, executive director of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation Service.
“We will continue to operate regular service,” he said. “We will put a notice out to our riders advising them of Chicago’s order, but we’re not going to change our operation.”
Commuters are directed to monitor their body temperature and watch for COVID-19 symptoms; wear a face covering in public, follow social distancing guidelines, regularly clean and disinfect their workspace, and avoid, as much as possible, contact with strangers and large congregate settings.
Also exempt from the mandate are individuals simply driving through Chicago or Indiana, or flying out of a Chicago airport.
But everyone else, such as a Chicago resident visiting an Indiana casino, or a Hoosier going out to dinner in the city, is subject to the order, and potentially could be fined $100 to $500 per day, up to $7,000 total, for ignoring it.
“I just want you and your families to be able to avoid COVID, and one of the best ways to do that is to not have unnecessary exposure to high-risk areas for COVID,” Arwady said.
Arwady mistakenly claimed Indiana is particularly risky because the state no longer requires face masks or social distancing inside reopened restaurants and bars.
Holcomb, a Republican, nevertheless said he understands the motivation of Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in regard to the city’s quarantine order.
“Mayor Lightfoot is trying to keep her citizens safe and I’m trying to do the exact same thing,” Holcomb said.
Chicago residents were strongly advised to not travel to Indiana last week, so the announcement was no surprise.
“I am very concerned that Indiana is a state that is wishing that COVID were over, and it’s not,” Arwady said last week.