Chicago's increasingly warm weather brings warnings to keep distance, stay inside during COVID-19 pandemic

Chicago police have broken up more than 800 groups in last week
CHICAGO (WLS) -- As temperatures climb in the Chicago area, city officials are warning residents to keep a distance while the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Chicago residents tired of being cooped up inside enjoyed warm weather reaching the 50s Thursday.

Lincoln Park wasn't quite packed, but definitely crowded with runners, walkers and entire families in search of some vitamin D.

"I have like a 20-30 minute window between conference calls at work," said Michelle Shlimon. "We live in the neighborhood so we just take a couple of rounds around the park just to get out."

Resident Matt Maniscalco said, "I'm just really trying to create my own normalcy and I think that really hinges on finding time to get out, away from my phone. I leave my phone at home intentionally and take a walk for an hour or two."

While official guidelines continue to emphasize that it's OK to go out for a walk and get some exercise, concerns that warming temperatures could lead to too many people outside have borne out a new statewide campaign, called "All In Illinois."

"Today I'm asking all of us. All of you, to be all in for Illinois. All in for our parents, our grandparents. Our cancer survivors. Those who are immune compromised," Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday.

The campaign is meant to complement Stay Home, Save Lives, which has already become a ubiquitous mantra seen all across Chicago.

"The issue isn't the exercise," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "The issue isn't necessarily being outside. It's congregating and being in places where the risk of exposure is heightened because of being in close proximity to somebody who isn't in your household. That's the issue."

Last week when the weather was nice, Mayor Lightfoot was forced to shut down the lakefront, the 606 trail, local parks and more to keep them from getting too crowded, but this time some believe it will be different.

"I do think people are gonna be smarter. I at least hope so," Tim Ly said. "I think everyone has been watching the news. They're aware of the circumstances that are at-hand, so I do think people will be more conscious about being around people."

RELATED: Coronavirus Illinois Update: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact

Police will be watching, keeping a close eye on anyone gathering in groups. In the last week, officers have broken up more than 860 groups, issuing seven citations and making one arrest.

"I think people do what they wanna do, so it's just the chance people are taking," Brooke Denzek said.

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Mayor Lightfoot announced the first city employee death from the new coronavirus Monday.

Many who ventured out Thursday morning said they're excited for the spring-like weather, but their routines have changed.

"My runs are definitely shorter. I just try to get out of the house before I start logging on and working for the day, but yeah my runs used to be probably an hour, an hour and a half and now it's 30 to 45 minutes," Jordan Parisi said.
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