Hinsdaleans coping with COVID-19
From government officials to food pantry staff, all working to meet residents’ needs
Last updated 3/18/2020 at 4:16pm | View PDF
What a difference a week makes.
Last week, Gov. J.B. Prtizker banned events with more than 1,000 attendees, canceled Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and urged businesses to allow employees to work from home. The state had only 32 confirmed COVID-19 and no deaths.
This week, the governor has closed schools, restaurants and bars. The number of cases in Illinois is approaching 300 and the state reported its first COVID-19 death.
Hinsdaleans, like Americans across the country, are doing their best to cope during these unprecedented times.
Not business as usual
Hinsdale Village Hall, the Hinsdale Public Library and schools in Hinsdale High School District 86 and Community Consolidated District 181 are closed.
Although village hall has been closed to the public since Monday, residents are not without services, village manager Kathleen Gargano said.
“I do want to stress we are continuing to provide services to the community,” she said.
“There are contingency plans in place for the police and fire departments. They have been taking extra precautionary measures for weeks in preparation for the possibility of community spread.”
She reassured residents that the water supply is safe and said different shift strategies have been implemented so public service employees can continue to perform their duties. Many services may be accessed online and drop boxes are available for submitting payments and other forms (see sidebar).
The village board met Monday night with five members in attendance.
“For tonight’s meeting, we are taking some extra steps to have social distancing for board members, staff and the public,” Gargano said Monday.
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 to control the spread of the disease. That provision was part of an executive order the governor issued Monday also prohibiting public gatherings of 50 or more people, a new standard recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Don Craven, legal counsel to the Illinois Press Association, noted in an email that Pritzker did not suspend other provisions of the Open Meetings Act that require public notice be given of all meetings and that require meetings to be open and accessible to the public and press.
“He did not suspend the requirement that the meeting be held in a place open and accessible to the public,” Craven said in the memo. “He did not suspend the requirement that the public be allowed to address the board, which means that there has to be a way for the public to participate by phone.”
District 86 rescheduled its March 12 school board meeting to today, March 19. Only Vice President Kevin Camden will be physically present for the meeting; the other board members will participate virtually. The district encouraged residents to do the same.
“We urge you to please consider taking advantage of the resources we will be providing so that people can experience or participate in the sessions virtually,” a district email stated. “These resources include the livestream that we make available for every board meeting, as well as options to call in or participate via web conference. We are currently finalizing the process for using technology to take part in audience communication virtually. We will post additional information about that process on BoardDocs and the district website. We will also share it with the community via email and social media.”
At the Hinsdale Public Library, staff members also are brainstorming ways to engage more people digitally.
“We’re looking at what we can move online,” Executive Director Karen Keefe said. “We’re looking at how we can make people more aware of what is already available with e-books and e-resources.”
The library initially announced it would close only on Sunday and Monday.
“We really were hoping that there was a way we still could provide some limited access to the collection. With the recommendations and advice coming fast and furious about just not going out in public, not interacting with anyone unless you had to, even something like curbside delivery didn’t seem advisable,” Keefe said.
Staff are busy behind the scenes considering ways to help meet the needs of patrons stuck at home.
“We are working with our friends in the parks department and at The Community House to cross-promote different activities we can support online,” she said. “There are a lot of children’s authors and programmers that are doing livestream. We are going to be pushing information out about that.”
Anyone who is having difficulty accessing digital resources should call the library at (630) 986-1976 and leave a message.
“Please, please, please contact us and someone will get back to you and troubleshoot over the phone,” Keefe said.
Health facilities taking precautions
Mike Murrill, president and CEO of Amita Medical Center Hinsdale and La Grange, said Amita is following all guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health and county health departments.
“Following these guidelines, patients are screened for possible symptoms, as well as other factors, including contact, travel, medical risk factors, public health concerns and hospitalization.
“Likewise, we are supporting our physician’s judgment and working on processes that meet the needs of our community. Given the advanced information and training provided by the CDC, our staff at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Hinsdale and throughout AMITA Health are well-prepared to care for COVID-19 patients.”
The DuPage Medical Group parking lot at 40 S. Clay St. is currently serving as a drive-through site for COVID-19 tests, Gargano reported at Monday night’s village board meeting.
“But it is not open to the public,” she said. “They are receiving patients referred there by the IDPH, so they do not want residents to think that they can go there.”
No cases had been reported as of press time Wednesday at Hinsdale’s two senior residences, Eve Assisted Living and ManorCare of Hinsdale Senior Living.
A notice on ManorCare’s website indicates all visitors, volunteers and nonessential staff are restricted expect for certain situations, such as the end of life. Communal dining and group activities have been canceled.
Stocking and re-stocking shelves
Ron Ludwigson, owner of Kramer Foods in Hinsdale, appreciates the attitude of those who shop at his grocery store.
“Customers have been awesome,” he said. “They are really understanding if you’re out of something.”
Keeping the shelves stocked of certain items such as toilet paper and eggs has been a challenge, he said, as some deliveries are being postponed and some orders reduced.
“Things are a little calmer today, so maybe we’ll be able to get caught up,” he said Tuesday. “Employees have been outstanding, working overtime and whatever it takes to get caught up.”
Staff is doing extra cleaning and sanitizing and being extra vigilant, he said.
“That’s all we can do,” he added.
How’s the supply of heavenly chicken salad?
“I haven’t heard of a problem with that yet,” he said with a chuckle.
HCS Family Services also is working to make sure it has food available for its clients, who are experiencing greater need right now.
“We have a situation where the demand is increasing, because we have a number of people that are affected by work stoppages or people shutting down temporarily,” said Stan Cook, executive director. “We have families who are depending on school meal programs who aren’t going to school now and it’s more difficult to access that free food.”
While the demand is increasing, the supply is not, Cook said.
“About 70 percent of the food that we receive at our pantry comes from grocery store food rescue. Right now the shelves are very empty in many grocery stores,” Cook said.
He is working with several suppliers — from the Northern Illinois Food Bank to retail outlets — to obtain groceries. While the pantry is happy to receive donations of food, the best way to help right now is by giving money.
“You want to provide protein and produce and all the four food groups to people,” he said. “We can evaluate it and pick out what’s needed at a given point in time.”
He is encouraged by the community’s response to an email appeal, which had generated $21,000 in donations as of Wednesday. The Mecca Center across the street from the pantry at Anne M. Jeans School in Burr Ridge also contacted Cook to say it will pay for milk and eggs for that pantry for the next year.
“I’m really overwhelmed right now by the show of generosity from our community,” he said.
— Peter Hancock of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this story.