Scenes like this may look different if and when Evanston begins recovery from the Coronavirus. RoundTable photo

State health experts believe that the flattening of the Coronavirus has not yet occurred and that the damage and deaths in its wake continue another few weeks.

City officials, nevertheless, are already looking toward the recovery period and how that will look different once it comes about, Interim City Manager Erika Storlie said in a report at a Fifth Ward meeting April 22.

Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons chaired the meeting, which was held remote over Zoom, the video conferencing platform, because of social distancing concerns.

In her report, Ms. Storlie said that, while officials are keying in on their biggest concerns – the safety and protection of citizens – they are necessarily looking at the future, too.

For instance, she said “We’re going to start making plans for how the Civic Center reopens,” she said, referring to the Evanston Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave., which houses most City offices and is the site of most City meetings.

“What does that look like? Do we need to reconfigure the way that our public spaces are organized, so that we can return to work, while maintaining that social distancing? Because we believe that’s going to be a part of the reality for some period of time into the future. People will rather be cautious and concerned about going to public spaces again and wanting to feel safe in them. So we need to look at how our facilities are laid out and set up where we can manage the inflow and outflow of people — much as you see when you go to the grocery store, where we will be limiting the amount of people inside of a space at one time and queuing people six feet apart if a line were to develop for anything.”

“We’re really wanting to prioritize the health and safety when residents come to visit those facilities,” Ms. Storlie continued.

“But we also are mindful that people can only stay home for so long, and we’re all going to start to go crazy. So we need to be able to gather safely in places and be able to communicate with all of our friends and neighbors [which] I hope will happen in the near term.”

The City is just making its way into the summer event season, and everything that makes Evanston special, Ms. Storlie noted.

A number of the events have already been postponed or reconfigured because of the constraints of the Coronavirus, she said.

Still, Ms. Storlie said she is hopeful that events such as the popular summer concerts can go forward, “we’ll just have to be very spread out.”

“We’ll see some cancellation of special events that normally crowd people together,” she predicted. “But as much as we can we’re trying to maintain block parties and places where people could safely congregate in a space that’s not confined.”

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.