Coronavirus blues

Illinois comes to grips

You think we have it bad here? Try Las Vegas.

“This fear has taken over the world and if you look and talk to doctors, I have yet to see a doctor who espouses the voice of social media and what the media is doing here,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said yesterday, even as the county that includes Sin City tallied five cases, none fatal. “From my perspective, what’s happened is this fear that’s taken over.’

Take that, Italy.

There is an easy way to fix what ails the Vegas Strip: Reinstitute $3 blackjack tables, $1.99 steak-and-egg breakfasts and free rooms for anyone risking $100. Folks will flock, which is capitalism’s beauty. And they might not be allowed to leave anytime soon, which would amount to yet another edge for the house.

Outside Nevada, common sense and China seem to have shown the way: Stay home. After more than a month, and with infection rates reportedly crested, Chinese factories and other businesses are starting to reopen. If you can buy an iPhone in Beijing, the apocalypse must be distant. But danger remains.

“Wash your hands as soon as you get home and hope for the best,” advises my 86-year-old father, who lives in Washington state, within 40 miles of a nursing home where the virus exploded in February, as of Thursday claiming 22 lives of residents and others associated with the home and nine more statewide. According to a recent 
New York Times report, the virus might have spread for weeks in the region where my dad lives before it was recognized for what it is. “People are really panicked about it,” he tells me. Schools have shut down, although last week’s presidential primary went fine because Washington, seeking to reduce costs while increasing participation and eliminating lines, switched to mail-only elections years ago. Just something to consider.

Dad, a pragmatist with underlying conditions who needs food, still goes to the supermarket. Don’t eat apples, he advises – everyone touches lots of fruit to find the freshest. “Buy the canned if you need to eat apples,” he tells me with a laugh. He is well-stocked with toilet paper and firewood. Life, as it must, goes on. With medical appointments and errands, you can’t just stay home. “People are really panicked about it – you watch the TV,” he says.

My mother, 79, lives a few miles away and also has a practical streak, although she hadn’t heard that an apple a day invites, well. A frugal sort who gets by without internet, smart phone or cable television, she’s landed on a strategy. “Seriously, it’s a really good time to stay at home,” she says. “This’ll blow over in a week or so.”

We don’t have victory gardens or war bonds anymore, but a shuttered widget factory or office building these days should be regarded as a sign of patriotism and sacrifice. The devilment is, the more people avoid each other, the better things, if epidemiologists are correct, will be; the fewer folks who get sick and die, the more folks will say “This was much ado about nothing.” We have no confirmed cases in Springfield. Should we be comforted that just four tests for the virus had been conducted in Sangamon County as of Thursday, or that county officials professed no issues while Gov. JB Pritzker and leaders in other states have howled about the feds not delivering on promises to provide sufficient test kits?

Some things seem clear.

The president proved himself a lying doofus of the first order during a nationwide address that was supposed to bring calm but was promptly followed by an alarming, even by today’s standards, stock-market plunge. The governor has sounded fine at daily press briefings. Whether he knows what he’s talking about doesn’t much matter. Style is as important as substance at this point, and Pritzker has sounded like a leader, both poised and practical. He’s helped by fairly low case numbers, but he’s smart enough to not take credit, knowing the power of Mother Nature. Without pounding podiums, he’s left little doubt about who’s in charge.

While schools statewide will close, the governor has given locals room enough to do the right thing on their own but not latitude enough to be stupid. Parades, for instance. On Tuesday afternoon, without explicitly saying so, the governor strongly suggested that St. Patrick’s Day parades shouldn’t go on. The next morning, Chicago canceled its processions. Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder didn’t get the hint and ended up looking foolish, allowing crowd barriers to be distributed before canceling the parade after the governor called, another unforced error in an administration that too often appears on autopilot.

Pandemics being rare, it’s hard to know what to do. Wisely or not, I went to the thrift store today, pawing through racks of used clothing, plenty unwashed, I’d guess. I overheard the cashier tell the manager he was feeling a bit run down, but would soldier on. Tomorrow, everything will be 50 percent off, but I’m not sure I’ll be there. We all must sacrifice.

Contact Bruce Rushton at

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