It’s way too early to start declaring victory — there are some parts of the country where COVID-19 is starting to surge and some leaders (we’re looking at you, White House) seem content to decrease the surplus population in exchange for not inconveniencing themselves unduly — but recent data in Illinois and locally indicates that, around these parts, we are doing things the right way.
On Monday, the state announced a daily increase in COVID-19 cases of less than 500. Illinois hasn’t seen a number like that since the pandemic started taking hold in late March. It’s been less than a month since the governor was announcing daily increases of 1,500+ cases a day.
That decrease in new confirmed cases has coincided with an increase in testing, so the data indicating Illinois is trending in the right direction seems solid.
Closer to home, the data is also optimistic. In the past week, the three villages the Landmark covers had just four new COVID-19 cases total. In North Riverside, for unexplained reasons, the Cook County Department of Public Health actually subtracted one case from the previous week’s total.
The last time the three villages combined posted that kind of increase was March 17-24 (since the paper comes out on Wednesdays, we’ve been tracking Tuesday to Tuesday), when the very first local case appeared in North Riverside.
We’ve done this by following the direction of state and county health officials, by honoring local mandates to wear masks in places where physical distancing is not possible and by staying home, if possible.
It’s been a trying three months and there may be more rough waters ahead before there’s a vaccine. But as evidence elsewhere in the country suggests, this disease is not gone and is not going away. It will continue to kill people and make many seriously ill, and if we want to avoid a repeat of the past three months, we have to guard against thinking somehow we have this thing licked. We don’t.
Maybe it’s because the Chicago area and Cook County have seen the effects of this disease on our older parents and grandparents, on those who live in nursing homes and long-term group housing, on communities of color and immigrants who lack access to good health care or have jobs that require them to work in places like food processing plants and factories where distancing is difficult and where calling in sick means you don’t get paid.
For us, COVID-19 hasn’t been an abstract concept. We need to remember that as things slowly melt back toward normality, as we progress through the phases of reopening.
Until there’s a vaccine, there’s risk. Let’s not have all of this hard work squandered by rushing to raise the “mission accomplished” banner.