April 2, 2020, 10 a.m.:
Got up this morning at 5am; couldn’t sleep; didn’t want to read the news; did what historians always do when the world falls apart; I dug into the archives of even worse times. working with documents always puts a thin white sheet of paper between you and the worst atrocities or, as the case may be, the after-effects of atrocities. I am working on a family history, and in this case the aftereffect was a nasty family spat in a Kindertransport-family, in which each side invoked the Holocaust and the Nazis to tear the other apart. Also, a trauma history.
After breakfast and finally reading the bad news about New York, I did my shopping run to the main store in Hyde Park, which kindly opens for people over 60 between 8am and 9am. They actually check your driver’s license. Other precautions are in place as well. You are no longer allowed to bring your own shopping bags, for example.
It’s now shortly after 10am, which I spent doing this and that to avoid fretting heedlessly. In the meantime, the local news ticker of the Chicago Tribune reports:
9:30 a.m.: Chicago police officer stricken with COVID-19 dies
9:09 a.m.: Inmate advocates file series of federal suits seeking potential release of thousands from Illinois prisons
8:50 a.m.: Traffic, cookies and video calls: Life during coronavirus in 6 charts
8:45 a.m.: Illinois schools stand to get hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal stimulus package
7:52 a.m.: Unemployment claims in Illinois top 178,000 as new claims across US hit 6.6 million, breaking record
8:05 a.m.: They were told their coronavirus test results would take days. These Fox Valley residents waited more than a week in self-isolation.
7:05 a.m.: 12th Cook County Court Clerk’s employee tests positive for coronavirus; worked in downtown traffic court
5 a.m.: As spring rains arrive amid the coronavirus crisis, towns prep for flooding
5 a.m.: Facing coronavirus fears, Chicago nurses and doctors try to protect their own families
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource center reports 6980 confirmed cases in Illinois as of 9:00:04am; 146 deaths; 94 deaths in Cook County, which is us. Otherwise, it’s a lovely day. I think I’ll go for a walk. My wife, Laura Engelstein, and I have been walking most every day up and down the Midway Plaisance. People are cautious and friendly; everybody steps aside and sheepishly says hallo.
Michael Geyer, Hyde Park, Chicago, April 2, 2020.
Michael Geyer is a Historian and Samuel N. Harper Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago; he was a Visiting Fellow at IWM from September to December 2019.