On March 8, 2020, Illinois reported its first case of community transmission of COVID-19. Within days, public schools were closed, bars and restaurants shut their doors, and a statewide shelter-in-place order was issued by Governor J.B. Pritzker. Terms like “social distancing,” “N-95,” and “flattening the curve” entered our collective vocabulary seemingly overnight, while across Chicago, life ground quickly to a halt.
While some Chicagoans settled comfortably into lives of quarantine and working from home, another story was unfolding in poorer neighborhoods throughout the city. Here, crowded housing made social distancing impossible. Crippling unemployment threw entire families into turmoil. Those working in jobs deemed “essential” risked daily exposure as disease spread relentlessly through their workplaces and communities. And neighborhood health centers, like Esperanza, suddenly found themselves on the front lines of a pandemic with only a handful of tools against an inscrutable virus.
These are the stories of what Esperanza witnessed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we did in response.