Coronavirus-related closures of public places won’t stop virus spread in this phase of the pandemic, where at-home gatherings are contributing to cases, one White House official warned Thursday, according to a report.
The comments from Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus task force coordinator, came during a briefing with health officials in Chicago, shortly after the city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, announced new restrictions, per the Chicago Tribune.
Lightfoot announced new restrictions on Thursday over the next two weeks to tamp down on the virus spread. All nonessential businesses in Chicago now have a 10 p.m. curfew and alcohol sales stop at 9 p.m. Bars without food licenses are no longer allowed to serve customers indoors. The changes went into effect Friday.
However, the restrictions also extended to social gatherings; the mayor asked residents to refrain from gatherings with over six people and social gatherings of any sort after 10 p.m.
“It won’t be as simple as closing public spaces because public spaces … were very safe over the summer and probably remain safe,” Birx said, per the outlet. “This is really something that has happened in the last three to four weeks. What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that people have moved their social gatherings indoors.”
Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, have been sounding the alarm about virus transmission, including inside homes, as cases are now growing at a rate seen early in the first wave. Average daily cases have risen by 54% over the last week, officials said.
“This virus is relentless. It doesn’t respect our boundaries,” Lightfoot said at a briefing. “It’s not something that we can keep at bay when we’re in our home.”
The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Chicago is 645, though there have already been several days coming in with 800 or 900 daily cases, Arwady said, estimating that about 35,000 to 50,000 Chicagoans have active infectious cases right now.
Lightfoot said the restrictions are necessary to save lives.
“I don’t want to put more restrictions in our city, no one does. But I have to do what’s right to save lives and if that means rolling back further, I will,” she said.
Both officials urged Chicagoans to refrain from inviting non-family members into their homes.
“… In fact where we see the spread of COVID-19 is where we let down our guard, where we literally let down our mask because we feel comfortable with those we love, but the virus is just looking for opportunities to spread,” Arwady said earlier this week.
The city’s test positivity is approaching 8%, placing Chicago in a “red zone.” The health commissioner said she expects serious outcomes from infections (i.e. hospitalizations and deaths) to follow in the coming weeks given the concerning rise in cases across the city.
“What none of us want is even further restrictions as we move into the holiday season, impacting Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas traditions,” Lightfoot continued. “But that is exactly the path that we are on right now if we do not take heed…”