The summer of nothing

Opinion: Editorials

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Had anyone imagined, when March dawned, that as Memorial Day approached we'd still be looking at another month – at least – of staying at home, away from our friends and family and workplaces (if you still had a place to call "work").

It seems clear right now that if the governor's stay-at-home order eases even a little when the calendar page flips to June 1, our lives won't be significantly altered. We'll be wearing masks and staying socially distant. We won't be standing shoulder to shoulder watching a show at FitzGerald's in Berwyn or drinking a pint at the bar at Irish Times.

The events and moments that bring meaning and fun to our lives as the temperatures warm and the gardens burst into flower are melting away before our eyes -- Memorial Day ceremonies, kids' summer day camps, cruise nights, art fairs, Independence Day parades and cookouts, sunning poolside at Riverside Swim Club while kids splash nearby, lingering over a drink under the lights at a restaurant's outdoor patio.

In another month, what will we be adding to that list? Will schools reopen their doors in August, or are we in for another round of remote learning? It's too soon to tell, but this has already gone on longer than perhaps most of us thought.

The problem is, COVID-19 isn't going away. The numbers of new cases continue to rise, and those new cases are coming at a steady rate. Locally, Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside have experienced few deaths, but we really don't know what the true number is, because only now is Illinois testing people at a clip that we can get a decent sense of its spread.

Making matters more difficult is a national response that has been slow, incomplete, scattered and politically distributed. Even as the White House is struggling to control the spread of the disease within its own walls, it is trying to gag guidelines for reopening the nation's business and public spaces safely.

State-by-state plans for reopening leave the entire nation vulnerable to a protracted battle with the spread COVID-19. Even within Illinois, where between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases of the disease have been reported almost daily since the beginning of May, and where the total number of cases is now approaching 80,000 statewide, some are getting itchy about all of this stay-at-home business.

Look, no one is happy to be living their lives in isolation. At the same time, there are many, many people who risk their lives daily to make sure the rest of us who have the luxury of working from home – food processing plant workers, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, doctors and nurses and the myriad hospital workers, grocery store stockers and cashiers – can do so.

They deserve the comfort of knowing that the rest of us aren't putting their health in danger. We collectively need to fight the urge to move too quickly.

We also need to demand from the federal leaders, who endlessly claim the nation is the most powerful on the planet, to direct that awesome power into programs that actually help our local small business owners and our neighbors who are struggling to survive this pandemic.

We say we're in this together. Let's prove it.

 

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