OK, campers. Rise and shine.
And don’t forget your booties. Because it’s cold out there today.
It’s just another Groundhog Day in Illinois, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker has extended the stay-at-home order another 30 days to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As its earliest conclusion, the state will have been grounded for 10 weeks, a once unimaginable time frame in which people will continue to lose loved ones, lose jobs and, in some cases, lose patience.
Golf courses and state parks will open again. Nonessential stores can offer curbside pickup. Some elective medical procedures will resume.
Pritzker loosened the previous restrictions on one condition: Everyone must cover their faces in public, unless they are younger than 2 or medically unable to do so.
Despite Pritzker’s repeated encouragement to be “all in” on the order, Illinois enters this next phase of life under the virus as a truly bifurcated state, a population split into those who are fighting bankruptcy and those fighting boredom. With each passing day, the two sides drift further apart as they deal with their own very real struggles.
“We have become a divided nation,” said Tammy McCarthy, an Aurora restaurant owner. “It feels like neither side can understand the other’s point of view anymore because we’re not experiencing this moment the same way."
McCarthy, who owns the popular Double Yolk restaurant off Butterfield Road and Farnsworth Avenue, decided to keep her business open for carryout orders after the governor issued a statewide ban on inside dining March 16.
Without the post-church crowd on Sundays, it has been a financially devastating time. She says she has lost money every week since, including $20,000 in perishable food that she bought prior to Pritzker’s directive and ended up donating.
Faced with the extended order, she cut back her employees’ hours Friday. She has promised the rest of the staff that she’ll try to keep the breakfast joint open until May 15. After that, McCarthy intends to close and doubts she’ll be able to reopen after the ban lifts.
“I’m going to lose my business," McCarthy said as her voice choked with tears and other complicated emotions. “I don’t want to seem bitter or like I don’t care about other people — because I care a lot — but this is costing me everything.”
Dena Dodd Perry gardens in the backyard of her Lake Forest home as her dog Haven hangs out, April 24, 2020. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
For Dena Dodd Perry, a wellness blogger, author and yoga instructor in Lake Forest, the stay-at-home order extension was no surprise. With a background in industrial engineering, she says she followed the projections and knew additional time would be needed to slow the spread.
Establishing routines has been key to making the extraordinary situation work for her family: an accounting firm partner husband now working at home, two sons back from college and a daughter in high school.
To augment regular family meals, “we order out for a local dinner every Friday and sometimes Sunday,” said Perry, 51, who blogs at denadodd.com and whose book, “Detoxelicious,” covers food, fitness and mindfulness. The kids get chore assignments every Saturday morning, and she has Zoom meetings on Friday evenings with her three siblings and 87-year-old father in Detroit.
Wednesdays at noon, she teaches online yoga classes through vivayalive.com — a practice she had quit awhile back, but realized was a perfect thing to start up again when the state began closing things down, she said.
“It’s just getting used to the new normal,” Perry said.
Pritzker acknowledged the toll his orders have taken on Illinois residents, saying it was a difficult, but necessary, decision given the projections he has seen. The state confirmed 2,724 new cases Friday and 108 more deaths, bringing the total to 39,658 positive tests and 1,795 people dead.
The numbers only bolster Woodridge resident TeRhonda McGee’s belief that Pritzker made the right decision when he extended the order.
“I’m grateful the governor actually cares about people and their well-being,” said McGee, who works for the American Medical Association in Chicago and has been doing her job from home since March 17. “I really feel everything should have been shut down for a solid two weeks, with the exception of hospitals.”
During the extra month at home, McGee said she will continue to take online courses in project management and Microsoft, as well as catch up on work. She also has taken advantage of twice-a-week meditation exercises her employer offers.
“It really helps with the stress of what is happening around us," she said.
Tiffany Man, the youth outreach director at the Pui Tak Center in Chinatown, witnesses the stress every day. She has heard from many neighborhood families who are suffering because restaurants, one of the community’s main industries, are suffering.
“I do have families telling me that they are worried about next month’s rent,” Man said. “Even if the shelter-in-place is lifted soon, they don’t foresee that (both parents) would be able to get jobs right away.”
Mary Pappalardo, who lives in South Chicago Heights, was furloughed from her job at an eye doctor’s office in mid-March. She was able to file for unemployment before others started reporting delays and has had no problems in the weeks she’s been out of work.
“I’m not naive to the fact there are people struggling, but I think that for all of us to survive, it’s worth it,” she said. “I’m much more comfortable staying home and sucking it up and not doing anything for a month … to possibly live.”
She passes the time with Netflix, home workouts, jogging and long walks with her 10-year-old beagle, Gus.
“(Gus) enjoys that,” she said. “It’s a month, hopefully. For the time being, it’s 30 more days to keep people safe. I’m more than happy to do my part and stay home.”
Malcolm Elliott stands at the Hermitage Park Fieldhouse on April 24, 2020, in Chicago. Elliott was planning to work for the Chicago Park District park, but that is now uncertain because of the extension of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Before the pandemic, Malcolm Elliott’s sanctuary was his local park clubhouse, where he volunteered as a tutor about three times a week. Since March, the 20-year-old hasn’t been able to catch up with the children who came to Hermitage Park in Englewood with questions about homework, and left him with laughter and a sense of fulfillment.
Elliott understands the need to socially distance, especially given the way the virus is devastating neighborhoods on the South and West sides, but that knowledge doesn’t fill the hole in his life since volunteering was suspended.
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“Stay-at-home for another month is really messing with me because I can’t continue to do what I continue to do on a regular basis,” Elliott said. “I look forward to seeing the faces that I’m used to seeing because I miss everybody that I volunteer with.”
Antioch resident Remi Ivanovas also is growing restless. A Lithuanian immigrant, he started his own business, Remi Painters, in 1999 and has had steady work until the pandemic hit. Now, customers no longer want people in their homes. He has struggled to find jobs the past two months.
On the bright side, he’s been working on kitchen and bathroom projects his wife has been “asking me to do for several years.” The projects not only earn him domestic points, they also allow him to give some of his crew work.
“But from another side,” Ivanovas said, “I have four kids. To pay the bills when you have no income, this is a problem."
He thought he’d be back at work in mid-April, like the governor’s initial order suggested. With at least five more weeks of a stay-at-home winter ahead, he hopes the weather warms up so he can find some exterior work.
“It’s really tough,” he said. “It’s scary.”