Residents, visitors deal with coronavirus one day at a time

Hours before President Trump declared a national health emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, March 13, Chicago appeared to be about half full.

Although the streets and the sidewalks did not carry their normal load of rush-hour cars and pedestrians, there was still plenty of traffic.

New Eastside News hit the pavement to see how commuters, residents, and tourists are handling the situation.

Pedro Vila and Haydee Vila, retired CPA and retired schoolteacher, New Eastside

Pedro Vila and Haydee Vila

Besides cancelling an April cruise to the southern Caribbean, the former CPA and the former schoolteacher have not changed much about their daily routines because of the Coronavirus threat.

“Everybody is concerned,” says Haydee, “but there is no worry.”

The couple took a cruise through the Gulf “about a month ago,” according to Pedro, but decided to forego their next trip because, “we thought it would be too risky going to the airport.” He says that everything else is pretty much business as usual. Then, after a pause, he adds, “well, my investment account is a little smaller now.”

Alicia O’Daniel, Social Work Coordinator, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rogers Park

Alicia O’Daniel

O’Daniel sees more people taking sanitary precautions like “washing our hands” and “covering our mouths,” but she’s not plan to change much about her daily routine beyond “taking a little extra care.”

“Because of working in a health care institution, although I’m a little worried, I’m not terrified of Coronavirus,” she says. “I understand that this is like a lot of other diseases that have come our way, and that we have to fight off. So I’m confident that we’ll find a solution to at least curb the spread or at least to treat the symptoms so that more people can go home after being quarantined.”

Joshua Jose, software engineer, Houston; and Ashley Joseph, resident doctor, Tampa

Joshua Jose and Ashley Joseph

Ashley and Joshua made their plans to visit Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day a couple of months ago, before Coronavirus became an issue, so the situation has already impacted their lives. Since then, the changes have continued to affect their daily routines at home and at work.

Joshua has been witnessing the stock market “literally crashing” since President Trump enacted the 30-day European Travel Ban on Thursday. But that still has not stopped him from investing.

“I think it can get much worse, but then it’ll climb back up,” he says. He’s also altered his daily bus commute to the office. “They’re saying that it might not be safe to take the bus, so we’re all driving,” he adds.

If conditions worsen, he says that his employer is preparing to help people work from home.  

Ashley is employed by a community hospital that has been a bit “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus situation.

“A lot of people come into the ER because they start having cold symptoms — fever, chills, cough — and so the hospitals are at capacity,” she explains. The hospital generally runs a “respiratory virus panel” to test patients with these symptoms, but supplies are currently running low. “In the meantime,” she continues, “you have patients taking up rooms that they don’t need.”

For the most part, she considers it all to be part of the job. “As doctors, we’re surrounded by (germs) all the time.”

Mark Jarvis and Victoria Knapp, developers / content creators, University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri

Mark Jarvis and Victoria Knapp

Co-workers Victoria and Mark decided to “tack on an extra day to explore the city” after completing a work-related technical forum on Wednesday and Thursday last week. Mark says that their work lives have not changed much, with one notable exception: “as of Tuesday (March 10), the university has suspended all in-person classes … the students have left campus.”

Regarding the exodus of 36,000 scholars, Victoria explains that, “it wasn’t too bad before we left on Wednesday morning, but it was the night before they told the students to go home.”

Although they’re still expected to come to work every day, Mark and Victoria have plans in place to do their jobs from home “if necessary.”

Joann La and Emilie Bartels, students at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Joann La and Emilie Bartels

Joann and Emilie expect a big change when they return from Chicago, where they chose to spend spring break visiting friends and attending the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“We’re currently doing online classes starting March 18 through April 1 and we’re currently on spring break right now so it hasn’t really affected us,” says Joanne. “But when we come back from Chicago, we’re going to have to do online classes, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work.”

“My roommates are all from the Chicago area,” says Emilie. “They’re all going home through April 1 for the online classes, so I’m going to be in my apartment all alone.” She expects the change to make a notable impact on her studies. “It’s going to be different doing classes from my computer, not being in a public classroom or a study space with my roommates like I always am,” she says. Also, as a season-ticket holding hockey fan, she’s disappointed with the NCAA’s cancellation of the 2020 tournament. But, she adds, not as badly as a friend who plays for the team.

Gwendolyn Sylvain, Chicago

Gwendolyn Sylvain

Current dog-walker and former programmer with the AT&T Law Department

Gwendolyn, who has held many careers in addition to the ones listed above, is experiencing a few changes to her work routine of walking up to ten dogs per day. But as far as her personal life is concerned, not so much.

“I’ve actually had a few people who have needed to cancel or cancel voluntarily because the companies they work for have asked them to work from home,” she says. “I think it was a matter of, they closed their offices so they could clean their offices thoroughly.”

Although she reads that many people are altering their personal lives to reduce the risks of contracting coronavirus, Gwendolyn says she’s “not really” doing anything different herself besides being “watchful.”

“It’s a personal choice, and we go through our lives every day making personal choices based on risk assessments that we work through our heads,” she says. “You could get hit on the head by a wrench from a building just by walking down the sidewalk, and that doesn’t mean that you have to stop walking down sidewalks.”

Daniel Patton | March16, 2020

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