Usually in this space we give condensed congratulations and criticisms for the news stories of the preceding week. But in acknowledgment that almost every story of late has been somehow affected by an ongoing public health crisis, and more importantly the spirit of community strength, the editorial board decided to this week hand out only thumbs up to the positive developments coming out of the COVID-19 outbreak.
THUMBS UP TO… meals on wheels. It’s beyond impressive to see how quickly school administrators, transportation officials, teachers and other staff members mobilized from the edict that schools should close to launch rolling meal delivery services. These districts are wisely leveraging existing resources to make sure children are fed while being forced to stay home. Different districts have different approaches, but many have taken the weekday responsibility of providing nutritious food to young people who otherwise might go hungry and decided that service can continue, safely, all in the context of public health guidelines. Seeing the buses roll through city streets has taken on a different meaning this week, and we hope to see these efforts continue as long as needed.
THUMBS UP TO… consistent communication. It’s rarely good news, but we appreciate that public officials, including Gov. JB Pritzker, are conducting daily briefings to keep the state’s residents informed about how things are developing. The Illinois Department of Public Health is coordinating its response with county health departments and other agencies, and the people of Illinois are benefiting from straight talk about how many COVID-19 cases are confirmed, where they’re located and what resources are being deployed in response. It can be hard to keep up with the news of the day in a standard environment, and with this unique situation it is vital for people to have clarity and consistency from professionals tasked with maximizing positive outcomes.
THUMBS UP TO… social sharing. With lots of students unexpectedly home for weeks, many of the parents who are fortunate enough to be able to stay home with their children want to make sure the kids stay somewhat productive during the hours they’d usually be in school. Unfortunately the vast majority of those parents don’t have backgrounds in elementary education. However, through the power of modern technology, we’ve seen lots of evidence of families sharing household schedules, project ideas and book recommendations. There’s also been a dramatic uptick in free, fresh online content such as daily videos from major zoos, museums and professional musical ensembles. Where possible, schools themselves are reaching out with lesson plans or age-appropriate activity ideas.
Altogether these efforts mean our kids are getting their young minds nurtured far beyond being tossed a box of crayons or being told to go read a book. Obviously not every home has equivalent access to the internet or the ability for the whole family to shelter in place, and surely the novelty of this shutdown will soon wear off, but in the early days we want to make sure these educational efforts are being noticed and appreciated.
THUMBS UP TO… the workers. One thing that hasn’t abated amidst coronavirus concern is our need to consume: food, mostly, but our cars need gas, our homes need electricity and water, the garbage still has to be collected. As thousands of adults shift to work from home methods, many others simply can’t because grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations have to stay open. The utility companies must keep chugging away. Restaurants are doing their level best to comply with health guidelines while also staying afloat — and don’t sleep on the importance of being able to order a prepared meal for the newly at-home parent trying to juggle work and family responsibilities, or for the person who can’t or shouldn’t brave the grocery store but still needs to eat.
Working in the service or hospitality industries are rarely easy jobs in normal conditions, and the pay tends to be near the bottom end of the scale. But all over the region such people are still going to work, stocking shelves, ringing up purchases, engaging with customers and, frankly, putting their own health at risk because they have a job that society at large simply needs to be done. A printed thank you scarcely seems like enough. If you have to go out and shop, please be careful and also gracious to the workers who keep things moving.
These are just a few positives. Surely there are more and we hope to continue chronicling those efforts in our pages. Stay safe, folks, and take care of each other.