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Letter to the Community from Mayor Stephen Hagerty:
This past weekend, we tragically lost two members of our community to COVID-19, both seniors. One, an active member in his Evanston church, although he lived in a nearby city, and the other, a resident at a senior living facility. My deepest condolences go out to their family and friends.
To the community, my hope is that their passing will be a call to all of us to unite, heed the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order, and each do our part to slow the spread of this virus. If the exponential growth of this virus continues, our hospitals will need to decide, “How early is too early to discharge a patient?” “Who gets a bed or respirator when there aren’t enough of either?” Let’s not put them in that position. We have the opportunity – as painful and unpleasant as it is – to alter the course of the spread of this virus if we make a furious effort to practice strict social distancing.
Governor Pritzker’s Stay-at-Home Order
On Saturday evening, Governor Pritzker’s Stay-at-Home Order went into effect for the entire state, including Evanston. Until the Order is lifted, this means no play dates, no playground visits, no sleepovers, no pickup games, and no social gatherings. We are to stay at home with only our family unit unless we need to leave to perform an essential activity, perform an essential function to respond to COVID-19, exercise outdoors (while social distancing!), or provide for the necessities we all need. (See the Governor’s Proclamation and FAQs.)
We can support our courageous health care workers, emergency responders, congregate home staff, childcare workers, pharmacists, and all those caring for the sick or supporting those caring for the sick by following the Order. We owe them – and all who continue to do essential work to meet our needs during this crisis, keeping grocery stores and carryout restaurants open and providing essential services – a great deal of gratitude for not abandoning their post when people need them most. For now, the best way to show our gratitude is by following the Governor’s Order and staying home.
Evanston’s Numbers: Why our collective sacrifice is required
On March 14, Evanston confirmed its first 2 cases of COVID-19. Today, March 23, we have 36 confirmed cases. What we know, both here and around the world, is the growth of confirmed cases is exponential. In general, it is doubling throughout the United States every two to three days. While we don’t know how many people actually have the disease, we can assume there is wide community spread. We also know that until our efforts to “flatten the curve” take hold, the number of confirmed cases will continue to grow significantly.
Is there any good news?
There is some good news.
We have world class health care organizations in Evanston that not only save lives, but are leading the state in increasing test capacity. Testing at NorthShore, for instance, now tops 500 tests a day and a mobile testing site has come online in Skokie. Still, to be tested, you need an order from your doctor.
Doctors and academics in Evanston and across the country are racing to develop a cure, anti-viral medications, and new ways to treat the disease, but we need to buy them more time.
The social fabric of our community is strong, increasing my confidence that we will do what’s necessary to comply with the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order while organizing to help those in our community most adversely impacted by the closure of most businesses and services.
Our Federal, State, and County partners, including our elected leaders, are working hard to advocate for us in Washington and Springfield, proposing aid to help our small businesses and families. It won’t make any of us whole again, but it will make this painful experience a little more bearable.
Our City staff, both elected and professional, are working 24/7 to create an agile organization that can rapidly and intelligently respond to this growing crisis. This past week, they have been hard at work with community and business partners to develop and implement plans to better shelter our homeless, care for residents who need assistance self-isolating, and help our congregate living facilities prepare for residents with COVID-19.
And, lastly, our residents are stepping up to help the most vulnerable in our community, buying meals, delivering groceries, finding housing solutions, providing childcare, and tele-companionship.
What can you do?
Create a family COVID-19 plan. What will you do if someone in your family gets the virus? How will you self-isolate? What’s your backup plan if you can’t self-isolate at home? What about your older parents? If one of them gets COVID-19, how should they be cared for? In their current housing unit or somewhere else? (If you need help with your plans, the CDC and IDPH can help.)
Join the community response effort. Become a member of the Evanston Medical Reserve Corps; drop off gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment (email email@example.com to coordinate); or donate blood to the Red Cross, Vitalant, and other organizations in desperate need. Additional volunteer opportunities will be announced in the coming days.
Help a neighbor. Check on those that live alone or are seniors. Offer to pick up items when you leave your home for an essential errand. Provide companionship through FaceTime, Zoom, and other technologies.
Support one another. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t be social – it just means we should maintain a physical distance from others of at least six feet. That means you’re free to smile and wave to others on your next jog, or say hello to your neighbor at the grocery store, or even repurpose campaign signage with positive messaging. These are difficult, stressful times for all of us, and random acts of kindness can go a long way. (The CDC offers additional tips to manage stress and anxiety.)
In closing, it’s not often that an entire country, state, or community is called upon to work hand-in-hand to help itself. Today we are called upon to do that. I’m confident that if we heed the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order and give others in our community practical and emotional support, we will look back upon this moment in our lives, grateful for what we all did to overcome this threat.
With Great Respect and Gratitude,
Stephen H. Hagerty
Mayor, City of Evanston