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CLOSED: Coronavirus concerns close schools, businesses, municipalities

By Bob Bong

March 18. 2020

As the number of cases rise and the death toll from COVID-19 mounts in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker has taken charge.

Last week, Pritzker ordered schools to close for at least two weeks. On Sunday, he ordered restaurants, bars and casinos to close until at least March 31. On Monday, he banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

It’s the new reality, and it’s no joke.

Long lines at supermarkets and wholesale clubs are now normal as people stock up on all kinds of items. Most we understand, such as hand sanitizer, soap, packaged foods. But toilet paper?

Perceived shortages of products are being caused not by a lack of supply, but by a panicked demand.

“This is an entirely self-created problem,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“There’s no shortage, there’s no need for hoarding, there’s no thoughts of closing grocery stores,” he said. “Just stick to your normal patterns, and there would be plenty for everyone.”

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said despite the precautionary measures to halt the spread of the virus, residents should not hoard supplies.

“There is no need to purchase dozens of packages of toilet paper at any one time,” she said. “Let me be clear Ñ hoarding is irresponsible. Please be considerate with others. É When people go out and buy more than they really need, they are hurting our most vulnerable neighbors. Please stop buying more than you need.”

Restaurants have taken steps to stay open by switching to deliveries and curbside pickups.

Other businesses are open but telling employees to work from home when possible and stay home if they feel sick.

Doctors have likened COVID-19 to the flu and give the same warnings about how to not spread the virus: Wash your hands. Sneeze into your elbow. Drink plenty of water.

Social distancing is the new buzzword, which has brought the many closings.

Senior centers are taking precautions for the elderly, who are among the most vulnerable. Visits by outsiders have been prohibited and centers are being cleaned regularly.

Colleges, high schools and grade schools are all shut down. Many are extending spring break or are switching to e-learning.

Students who get meals at school can still get them. In Summit, students can pick up “grab and go” sack breakfast and lunch between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. until March 30 at the Summit Park District, 5700 S. Archer Ave., Graves/Heritage Middle School, 6021 S. 74th Avenue, Argo High School, 7329 W. 63rd St. and at the Bedford Park District Community Building, 6652 S. 78th Avenue.

Chicago Public Schools will distribute free food boxes with three days’ worth of breakfast and lunches to every student in a household. Families can pick up the meals from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily at their nearest school.

Most libraries, park districts, and government buildings are closing. The Lyons, La Grange and Summit park district facilities are closed. However, the Bridgeview Park District is remaining open. The Summit, Lyons, Bedford Park and Bridgeview public libraries have all closed their doors.

In Countryside, City Hall is closed to non-essential services through March 31. Water payments can be dropped off in the night deposit box in the entryway or at the Police Department. Lyons Township offices are closed to the public.

While buildings may be closed, government must go on. Pritzker used his emergency powers Monday to waive a portion of the Illinois Open Meetings Act to allow local governments and other public bodies to hold “remote” meetings.

The order waives a portion of the Open Meetings Act that requires a quorum of members of a public body be “physically present” at the meeting location, and limits the circumstances under which an individual member may take part by video or audio conference.

It applies to city councils, county boards, school boards and all other public bodies of state and local government.

Secretary of State driver facilities are closed.

Cook County circuit courts are closed until April 15.

The Lincoln Park Zoo, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Children’s Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum are all temporarily closed.

Area police departments have made some minor adjustments.

In Countryside, police will respond only to high priority and/or emergency calls. Low priority calls will be taken by phone.

Even lottery players will be affected.

The Illinois Lottery announced that all of its claim centers will be closed to the public until further notice.

“As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, taking a more aggressive stance on helping to ensure the safety of our players and employees is prudent,” said Harold Mays, Acting Director. “We hope our players are patient and understanding as we work through this unprecedented challenge together.”

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