On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the Cubs to slow their roll.
After Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenny expressed optimism over fans potentially attending games this summer, the leader of the nation’s third-largest city had a very different message for those dreaming of returning to Wrigley Field soon.
“Whether it’s a thousand, or 800, or 80, there’s got to be a plan for safety and we’re happy to engage in that discussion with all the sports teams,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to do it in a way that makes sure that when those fans are queued up outside the venues, when they’re in the venues, and when they’re leaving, that there’s a plan to keep them safe and minimize the risk of COVID spread.”
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Across the country, states that rushed to re-open in the wake of COVID-19 have seen case totals and infection rates spike. On Friday, Texas governor Greg Abbott changed course, ordering all bars to close immediately and for restaurants to curtail the number of patrons. Florida, another hotspot for the virus, paused its reopening as well as cases rose drastically in recent days.
Illinois has consistently ranked as one of the top-performing states when it comes to COVID-19 due to an array of state guidelines. In Chicago, many of these measures were taken a step further given the city’s population and the difficulties that come with that many people social distancing. Even as the state enters Phase IV in its recovery efforts, Lightfoot is still treading cautiously.
Part of the state’s next phase permits fan attendance – up to 20 percent. For the Cubs at Wrigley Field, that means roughly 8,000 fans could, at least in theory, be present for games when the season opens July 23-24. The famous Wrigleyville rooftops will also be open, based on Kenney’s comments.
“I’ve been optimistic on this one for a while. We’re fortunate to have some of the best medical professionals in our city helping us, both from Advocate and Northwestern, and I’ll give credit to the city and the city’s health department as well. And there was always a path to bring fans back into Wrigley, obviously a much smaller group than would normally attend games,” Kenney said. “And we’re working with the city, having great conversations with the mayor’s staff on this topic. We know our fans, if safe and if it can be done with the right precautions, would love to come back to the ballpark, and so we do see that happening this year.”
For the organization, getting fans back in the ballpark is undoubtedly a top priority as it seeks to make up the harrowing financial losses from the shortened (and to this point nonexistent) 2020 season. But at the end of the day, it comes down to safety – for fans, players and everyone involved.
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Based on what we heard from Lightfoot, the plans aren’t yet in place to make that happen. That doesn’t mean the city and the Cubs won’t get it done – but don’t start circling dates when the schedule drops just yet.