Hinsdale navigates the COVID-19 crisis

Schools, eateries, businesses among those discerning course through uncharted landscape

Indoor dining at restaurants is prohibited. Learning for many is moving from in-person to remote. And people are being urged to avoid gathering for a high-profile holiday.

That was the situation back early spring, and November has ushered in a strong sense of déjà vu as difficult COVID-19 measures are being reinstituted to combat spiking case numbers in Illinois and around the country.

On Tuesday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the entire state would enter Tier 3 of his mitigation plan starting Friday. Non-essential retail facilities can operate at 25 percent capacity, while pharmacies and grocery stores may operate at 50 percent capacity. Personal care services can remain open, but only at 25 percent capacity and as long as face coverings are worn. Indoor dining was prohibited under Tier 2 restrictions imposed earlier this month.

The mitigations are needed, according to the governor and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, because hospitalizations are hitting a point of exponential growth.

Adam Maycock, president and CEO of AMITA Health Adventist Medical Centers Hinsdale and La Grange, said the two facilities are feeling the effects.

"During this second wave, COVID-19 has impacted our Hinsdale Hospital campus significantly, although not to the degree seen in the spring," he stated. "The La Grange campus has seen numbers close to if not higher than at the onset of the pandemic. Both campuses have bed availability, yet are challenged with staffing all available beds, which limits options to take on more patients."

Community Consolidated District 181 is continuing its hybrid model, which splits students daily between morning and afternoon in-person sessions. But officials are monitoring the situation closely.

"At this time, there is no work-from-home mandate for school employees or an order for student learning to go fully remote," Garcia said in a recent update. "If the state does order this, we will comply with it immediately."

He cited the success of the district's safety protocols and procedures as evidenced by DuPage County Health Department findings.

"None of the positive COVID-19 cases in D181 students or staff have been linked to a transmission that took place at school," Garcia pointed out, noting that district has also received high marks on parent surveys.

The district has reported 34 positive cases among students and 14 among staff since the start of the school year.

In Hinsdale High School District 86, students are also following a hybrid approach, with about 25 percent of students on campus each week on a rotating basis. The total number of positive cases among students and staff since the start of the school year stood at 78 last week. Students and staff conduct daily symptom and temperature checks, wearing masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines, officials said.

District 86 Board President Kevin Camden said last week that, despite the rising number of cases, "continuing to offer in-person instruction and striving to increase both the number of students who are on-site and the amount of instructional time they receive are critical to the success of our learners."

Elsewhere in the community. Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church and Redeemer Lutheran Church are among the local faith communities in recent weeks that have suspended in-person worship services after resuming them in the summer. And restaurateur and Hinsdale resident Paul Virant announced this week that he was temporarily closing his two eateries.

"We have made the very difficult decision to 'press pause' at both Vistro and Vie. Our final day of service will be Wednesday, Nov. 25," reads a post on the Vistro website. "In addition to helping to keep our guests and team safe, this temporary closure is necessary to be sure we can welcome you back when things get better."

Maycock said having two hospitals in close proximity is beneficial in these times.

"The situation changes day to day, but we are fortunate the two campuses are a short distance from each other and have been able to cross support when needed," he said.

With Thanksgiving approaching, health experts are concerned about family gatherings. Pritzker urged citizens to celebrate only with household members to avoid another case surge.

"To be very clear, we are relying on you here," he said at Tuesday's press conference. "Nobody will go door-to-door to check on you. But we're asking people to hold themselves and each other accountable."

- Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this story.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean