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Spreading joy through music, paying tribute to beloved neighbors from afar: How Chicagoans are living through the coronavirus crisis Monday

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 3/30/2020 By Chicago Tribune staff, Chicago Tribune
a group of people standing in front of a military uniform: Members of the Illinois National Guard suit up in personal protective gear Thursday, March 26, 2020 to begin shifts at their coronavirus testing facility on the Northwest Side. © Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Members of the Illinois National Guard suit up in personal protective gear Thursday, March 26, 2020 to begin shifts at their coronavirus testing facility on the Northwest Side.

The new reality of the coronavirus crisis is starting to sink it, but that doesn’t make it much easier to cope. Chicagoans are beginning their second week of the statewide stay-at-home order, and all signs point to things continuing like this for most of April.

In spite of the circumstances, though, Chicagoland is finding a way forward, one day at a time. There is hope to be found as suburban students spread joy through music videos sent to senior citizens, and as #PandemicPals offer colorful, encouraging notes to those who need them most.

a person holding a sign: James Yarbrough and his 3-year-old granddaughter Eva Kramer stand in Yarbrough's doorway with drawings she made for people in an assisted living facility Sunday, March 29, 2020, in Elmhurst, Ill. © Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS James Yarbrough and his 3-year-old granddaughter Eva Kramer stand in Yarbrough's doorway with drawings she made for people in an assisted living facility Sunday, March 29, 2020, in Elmhurst, Ill.

Along with the latest news updates and a running list of Chicago-area closings and cancellations, the Tribune is taking a look at how our day-to-day lives are changing.

Here are the latest updates Monday on how we’re living in the time of COVID-19:

9:32 a.m.: Stevenson students ‘spread the joy of music’ through videos sent to elderly at facilities on lockdown due to the coronavirus

A group of students from Adlai E. Stevenson High School are determined to share their love of music — safely — with residents at local senior living facilities.

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, facilities across the state that serve the elderly, one of the populations health experts and officials have said is most susceptible to the disease, began tightening restrictions and limiting visitors in early March.

Crescendo for a Cause, a non-profit music education and advocacy organization started by Stevenson seniors Kiran Mohan, Allen Beckwith and Jonathan Raymond, had several performances scheduled in the coming weeks and months at local facilities. Despite not being able to perform for the residents in person, the young men decided to “keep the music going” and send virtual performances.

“They’re kind of stuck with not much,” said Mohan, co-president and co-founder of the group. “We know these residents, and we really wanted to still spread the joy of music with them.”

Read more here.

9:20 a.m.: Virtual virtuosity: Civic Orchestra celebrates centennial with online concert

On March 29, 1920, Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Frederick Stock stood onstage in Orchestra Hall to conduct the inaugural concert of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

Exactly 100 years later, on Sunday evening, the Civic — which still flourishes as the CSO’s training orchestra — played its anniversary concert. Online.

Like all concerts in Illinois and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic, the Civic’s long-planned centennial performance had to be canceled. But that didn’t stop these gifted young musicians from being heard.

In a 40-minute, prerecorded concert that streamed on Facebook and YouTube, Civic principal conductor Ken-David Masur led 62 musicians in excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Each musician appeared in a small rectangle on a screen platform designed by engineer Christopher Bill. This was followed by the audio-only world premieres of seven compositions commissioned a few days ago for the high-tech occasion.

“The musicians are playing Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, which is very significant to us,” Masur told viewers in introducing the virtual concert. “It was going to be performed today in Orchestra Hall, because 100 years ago, to this day, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was on the program for the inaugural concert of Civic.”

Read more here.

8:25 a.m.: Facing coronavirus, Chicagoans unite as #PandemicPals and write letters to isolated seniors

One thing I love about this big, messy, diverse and often difficult city and all its surrounding suburbs is this: When there’s trouble and you give people a path they can go down to help, Chicagoans rush in.

I’ve seen it time and again, year after year. A family’s house burns down before Christmas — Chicagoans rush in. A West Side youth football team comes up just short raising money to attend a jamboree — Chicagoans rush in.

Earlier this week, I wrote a column about the coronavirus pandemic and how it would leave many seniors and people with disabilities struggling with isolation. Not quite sure how it would work, I suggested we find ways to reach out to these people and call ourselves #PandemicPals.

And Chicagoans rushed in.

I’ve now responded to more than 150 emails from people who want to send cards or letters to folks who have suddenly found themselves cut off from visitors and unable to socialize. And the emails keep coming. — Rex Huppke

5:05 a.m.: A war like no other: Inside the Illinois National Guard’s unprecedented coronavirus mission

After a solitary 5-mile run long before sunrise each morning, Pfc. Sabine Gonzalez grabs a cardboard container filled with scrambled eggs and hash browns in a suburban hotel lobby and heads back to her room.

She eats alone, adhering to a social distance that runs counter to the military culture she loves. She uses FaceTime to call her parents in nearby Lombard, telling them what she has seen and done since being activated by the Illinois National Guard to work at a coronavirus testing site on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

Gonzalez assures them that she is fine, that she will remain fine.

They all know the 18-year-old is making a promise she can’t necessarily keep.

The military convoy is soon on its way to an old vehicle emissions testing facility in the Dunning neighborhood, where the soldiers are fighting a war unlike any the Illinois National Guard has ever waged. Roughly 115 Guard members spent the past week testing first responders and health care workers for COVID-19, a service in such high demand that the site has reached its 250-patient daily limit within just a few hours each day.

“The whole thing is surreal,” said Gonzalez, a full-time student at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. “I joined the National Guard so I could help wherever I was needed. I figured it would be in another state or somewhere I’ve never been. But this is my home, and I’m able to do something to directly help my friends and neighbors. It’s very special in that way.”

Read more here.

5 a.m.: With high school seniors’ lives upended by coronavirus, universities are loosening enrollment deadlines, but some colleges are ‘being stubborn’

Despite vast uncertainty over when their campuses can fully reopen, Illinois colleges continue to court prospective students, in some cases revising admissions deadlines and rolling out virtual tours to help high school seniors decide where to attend.

Since visits scheduled for spring break and upcoming events for admitted students have all been canceled, many schools are posting scenic videos of their campuses online with accompanying narration.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, the city’s largest school with enrollment topping 33,000, pushed back its deadline for high school seniors to commit from May 1 to June 1. A wave of schools nationwide are relaxing the timetable to let students experiencing financial hardship and general anxiety about the outbreak reconsider options.

“We don’t want parents or students making decisions in a sense of panic,” said Kevin Browne, vice provost for academic and enrollment services at UIC. “We are watching to see what happens for fall and beyond, but I’m absolutely convinced we will be able to adapt and provide a good educational experience for the students. We have great empathy for the students whose senior year of high school is not what they expected.”

Read more here.

Sunday, March 29, and Saturday, March 28

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©2020 the Chicago Tribune

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