Chicago police warn social distancing violators after video of house party goes viral
A viral video purporting to show a crowded house party in Chicago over the weekend sparked a strong reaction from officials
By Angie Leventis Lourgos and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas
CHICAGO — A viral video purporting to show a crowded house party in Chicago over the weekend prompted Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to admonish the young partiers who appear to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder and flouting social distancing orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have not seen the video though I did hear about it,” he said. “First, I want to remind everyone that by doing that, by standing together, not social distancing, many people not wearing masks, you’re literally putting everyone around you in danger. They are putting you in danger and, very importantly, all of those people are putting their families and their friends who are not there with them in danger.”
While the Tribune could not verify the authenticity of the video or the location of the large party, other media outlets reported that the footage was taken in Chicago. Some of the youths in the video were wearing Chicago sports paraphernalia; a few attendees appeared to be wearing masks, though none maintained the prescribed safe distance of six feet.
“The whole purpose of social distancing, of wearing masks, of staying at home in fact, is we don’t want to spread this to our loved ones or to others in the community,” Pritzker said. “So I would suggest that all of those people violated not only the intention of the order that we put out but also violated the trust of friends and family.”
This is not the first instance of reported social distance violations amid the pandemic. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said earlier this month that she personally broke up an underage drinking party on the Far North side of the city. Viral images of St. Patrick’s Day revelers lining the sidewalks of Chicago and spring breakers along the beaches of Florida have incited rage over the last few weeks as the highly contagious virus spread.
Chicago Police officials on social media acknowledged the footage of the party, but said they could not verify the incident or location.
“We are aware of a video circulating on social media depicting a large house party inside of an alleged Chicago residence,” CPD said on Twitter. “While we cannot authenticate the nature or location of the gathering, we want to remind everyone of the social distancing requirements in place. CPD will disperse crowds in violation of social distancing requirements, and if necessary, issue citations or as a last resort, enforce via arrest.”
Pritzker last week extended a modified stay-at-home order through May. While the state has "the ability to enforce these things,” the governor said officials have largely chosen to “allow people to self-enforce, to do the right thing.”
“We obviously have asked the police and other law enforcement to remind people, when they see them and they’re not following the new social distancing norms and they’re not wearing a mask, that they need to do those things,” he said.
He added that if violators repeatedly social distancing practicing, “there is the ability by the police officers to charge them with reckless conduct and take them into custody, though again, we have discouraged police from doing that because we believe that people will in general follow the rules.”
During Sunday’s news conference, Pritzker announced 2,126 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 43,903; there were also 59 new deaths, and thousands remain hospitalized with the highly contagious virus.
That’s the third time in recent days that the number of new daily cases has topped 2,000, with the peak so far at more than 2,700 on Friday; this recent spike in positive cases comes amid a massive increase in testing for COVID-19 in Illinois, with more test sites launching across the state as well as a recent expansion of previously-restrictive testing criteria.
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