Chicago businesses hit hard by COVID-19 concerns

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CHICAGO — The streets were sparse, the sidewalks were bare and trains were nearly empty in the Loop Thursday as many opted to work from home as concern grows about COVID-19.

“It does feel like a Friday before a holiday,” said Anita Banerji, who works in the Loop.

Some said it was a nice change of pace, but others know it’s not a good sign.

Jaime Salinas sets up his food truck in front of the Chicago Board of Trade every day. He depends on long lines during lunch.

“Right now it’s like dead. It’s nothing,” said Salinas, owner of Mexi-Taco Truck.

He had only a handful of customers Thursday.

“Last week was good, but this week — starting yesterday — is really slow,” he added.

The trading floor will close indefinitely on Friday and many employees are now working from home.

“We have to pay rent. We have to pay insurance. We have to pay the employees. That’s a lot of expenses we have to deal with and right now there’s not that much sales,” Salinas said.

He’s not the only one struggling during the concern over COVID-19.

Chicago’s economy is taking a toll after multiple event cancellations at McCormick Place and the Bulls and Blackhawks have suspended their seasons.

“They rely on those paychecks — in some cases to make ends meet — and that’s really where you start to feel the immediate pain points of things shutting down. Unfortunately, those are the first casualties,” said Danny Ecker from Crain’s Chicago Business.

But others are being cautiously optimistic.

“I want to believe that we will get to a good point where the craziness will die down and we’ll be able to continue business as usual,” said Anita Banerji.

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