Our Opinion

If there were ever a time that Americans need leadership, it’s now.

As the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 nearly shuts down the entire country, people need to know how they can stay safe, whom they can trust and what the future will bring, whether it’s the next day or next month.

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have provided that—for the most part. Updating residents daily, they have shared their condolences about lives lost due to the virus and presented detailed plans for how the city and state will press on during such stressful times.

Both have announced measures to help small businesses that are either closed or have severely restricted their services. Tax payments are postponed, and a loan program has been set up to support small businesses in the city.

Pritzker announced a “stay at home” order that went into effect at 5 p.m. on March 21, and only essential businesses may remain open. It turns out many businesses qualify as essential—including grocery stores, gas stations and media outlets—but other businesses must shut down their services.

Bars and restaurants cannot offer dine-in services, just carryout, curbside pickup and delivery.

Still, Pritzker’s and Lightfoot’s actions have left some questions. The primary election was held as scheduled on March 17—the same day all schools statewide were set to close.

People were told to avoid large crowds—something for which polling places are infamous.

Lightfoot postponed all St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the city, including all the parades. That was a wise decision.

However, she put restrictions on the number of patrons that bars and restaurants could host. That was a day after most people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.

So, bars in the heart of the city were still crowded—and potentially full of people spreading the coronavirus.

No one can predict when life as we knew it will return, as the Summer Olympics, set for Tokyo in late July, are now postponed.

In the grand scheme of things, the loss of sports is tolerable, although people now have a greater appreciation for them.

They also likely can’t wait to go outside and socialize in large groups, activities that have seemingly decreased in popularity with the rise of smartphones.

All that people can really do is maintain a safe social distance—and demand leadership from elected officials.