For the past month, the city of Chicago has requested that travelers from states with surging COVID-19 infection rates self-quarantine for 14 days before going out and mingling with the good people of Chicago. The list of states is updated weekly and posted to the city’s website. Violators will be fined between $100 and $500 per day, up to $7,000. Nevertheless, the lure of deep dish pizza is just too strong for some tourists.
Last week, reporters from WBEZ radio spent an hour near the Bean, the sculpture in Millennium Park that doubles as Chicago’s number-one tourist magnet, and found 10 travelers who admitted to violating the ban. Many of them plead ignorance that their states were included. Others claimed that it didn’t matter since the ban was based on the honor system, unlike Hawaii’s, which requires travelers to sign a form with their hotel information. (Or, as one Kansan who preferred to remain anonymous put it, “With work and everything, [a] two week quarantine just really isn’t an option. We had this trip planned long before all of this stuff, so we weren’t going to back out of it just because of an order that’s unenforceable.”) Still others said it was all good since they were wearing masks. Almost all of them said they had come to Chicago to eat at Lou Malnati’s.
Yes, it is true that Lou Malnati’s is the best of the Chicago deep dish pizza chains. (Fight me.) But guys, do you know that Lou Malnati’s ships anywhere in the U.S.? It’s true! When I was living out of state, my loved ones would ship me Lou’s pizzas for my birthday and other special occasions. It costs way less than $500. Or even $100. It’s true, something may be lost eating it in your kitchen in Kansas instead of in Chicago—like maybe a visit to the Bean or the Museum of Science and Industry. But those things will be there once the pandemic is under control, even the coal mine, which generations of children have long agreed is the best part of any visit—and is now currently closed.
I know we’ve all been asking this every day for the past five months now, but why is it so hard for people to follow basic rules that will help keep other people healthy? One comforting thing: most Chicagoans avoid downtown like the plague (heh heh) and in general prefer tavern-style to deep dish.