Chicago looks deserted as people stay home due to COVID-19

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CHICAGO —  Chicago is beginning a period of social isolation, with many public places and streets sitting empty Monday morning.

Many workers could be seen leaving offices, computers in hand and prepared for a stretch of working from home.

This is Chicago in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alone in Millennium Park, Kevin Ayromloo sat in one of the city’s most public places, contemplating isolation

“These spaces are meaningless without people,” Ayromloo said. “In a way, it is sad to see this problem is affecting everyone’s life so gravely.”

La Salle Street, long the symbolic center of Chicago’s economy, was nearly deserted when it would normally be bustling at 9:30 Monday morning.

But Madu Mangombe pushed on, continuing to work as a delivery courier. 

“I still have to pay my bills and still have to go to the grocery store. My life’s not gonna stop just because the virus is going on,” Mangombe said.

And so it was on every corner, as people seemed to be searching for a way forward. Visiting from Australia, Janice and Glen Hampton found themselves being tourists in the empty city.

“We’re waiting to see what happens; we may fly home, if we can get a flight home,” Janice said.

A Blue Line El station sits empty

There were birds at the iconic “Bean,” but no people. The City closed it to discourage the usual crowds from congregating there. A fence keeps people at least 100 feet away.

El platforms sat empty, and corner bars and restaurants promised only “contact-less service” after they are all closed to the public Monday.

Teresa Ging’s sweet shop “Sugar Bliss” is closing its Wabash Avenue location. As she wonders how she’s going to pay her workers, she expressed concerns over the few retailers still open.

“There is going to be another pandemic and if they don’t learn from this it’s just going to be even worse,” Ging said.

The Loop looked like it was being looted by office workers taking their desktop computers home to work in isolation.

“I need a big screen so it’s really easier to use a bigger monitor, that’s why everyone’s been taking their whole desktop home,” Alessandra Racanelli said.

A worker walks with their computer monitor

Some who have no work to bring home are stocking up on groceries and supplies, while they still have money. Friends Katie Buglewicz and Moira Kelly say they both lost their jobs.

“If this goes on for two months? I’ll probably be crawling back to my mommy and daddy in Colorado,” Buglewicz said

For Kevin Ayromloo alone at Millennium Park, there is much to see in what’s missing.

“See fear in the faces of people… and there is not much you can do other than take care of yourself and don’t let the problem expand further,” Ayromloo said.

That’s exactly why public health officials are asking us to isolate ourselves: to help the worldwide containment effort. 

So even if we’re sitting alone, in our apartments, we’re all doing it together.


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