“Contagion” With Dr. Allison Arwady

Since the Siskel Center reopening in August, they screen so many interesting films that I want to be there every other day! One of the series is called Chicago Favorites, and last Saturday, they screened “Contagion” with special guest Dr. Allison Arwady. It was a little bit surreal to see her live after seen her on-screen almost every day for the past 18 months :), and the conversation was exceptionally interesting. At the time when this movie was filmed, she worked as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, just as Kate Winslet’s character in the movie.


People asked Dr. Allison how close to reality things are presented in the movie and whether at that time she thought that such things could happen for real (her reply: absolutely, it was not the question of if, but when). She mentioned that quarantining Chicago in the situation described in the movie wouldn’t make sense and that as for the movie’s food shortage, she said: we grow our own food! So although the supply chain disruption is real as we see it, it won’t end up in the food shortage and people breaking into the stores (that happened for different reasons!)
You know what I like about Dr. Arwady? She is in front of people almost every day. She is never falsely optimistic, but she also never panic, and her explanations of the Chicago Health Department policies are clear and making sense. That e-being said, she is very optimistic about our future, and she says vaccines work exactly like expected, and we couldn’t even hope for such an outcome, And we will get through it.

And I trust her!

The Crowds On The Streets

The crowds on the streets of Chicago during the past weekend were ginormous! It was not even pre-covid level; it was more than that! It was like being in New York on the New Year’s Eve.

Lena and I opted to wear masks outside most of the time because the crowds didn’t make it much better than inside. Who needs Lalapaloose with such crowds! (they said that Lala ended up not being a super-spreader after all). 

On Friday, our office building issued a mask mandate inside, and today, it was officially announced by the City. I am perfectly fine with that; as I already said multiple times, I would rather do things masked than not do things. 

Also, remember all these subscriptions I as purchasing in the past several weeks? Today, all the entertainment establishments sent out emails of proof of vaccination required to attend the event. It was decided by the League of Chicago Theatres. During the past several weeks, some of them even sent out surveys asking the patrons how they would react to the vaccination mandate. I was happy to answer – yes, I support it! 

Dr. Alyson Awdrey said during the press conference today, that the number of infected people per day in Chicago, although it has risen several times since June (from less than 100 to over 400), is still way below the 2,000 cases per day in winter. 

I hope that people will get vaccinated!

A Day Without Deaths

Today is the first day after the beginning of the pandemic when there were no deaths recorded in the state of Illinois. It does not mean that it’s all over. It does not even mean that there were no deaths. And we may wait for a while to see another day like this. But still – that’s the day to celebrate. To celebrate and to remember those who died during pandemic. That’s the day to multiply our efforts to prevent as many deaths as possible. That’s the day to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Oh yes, and the Crown Fountain is operating again 🙂

Chicago Reopening

Chicago reopening is happening in a non-obvious way. Most of the museums and attractions are moving slowly, and often, there is no way to find out except for some random announcements.

Just five minutes ago, I found out that the Bean and the Buckingham fountain are open! And I can’t find any information about the Crown fountain. I would love to know because my granddaughters are coming on Thursday, and I was so hoping that they will be able to splash in the Crown fountain.

Most of the Museums lifted the mask mandate for vaccinated people, but we might keep our masks on when going to the Aquarium because the children are not vaccinated. Honestly, I would prefer that they keep the mask requirements but open the children’s centers and cafes.

When I walk the street of the city, which I love so much, I see many places that are closed forever. I recall how in spring 2020, I wrote a post about the “wounded city.” And now I walk the streets and still see these wounds. Some of them still didn’t heal; others did, but the scars remain… God only knows how long it will take, but it could be worse…

That’s my city!
Restaurants running out of capacity

Half-pandemic May

Today, Chicago and the state of Illinois lifted most remaining COVID-19 mitigation-related masking and social distancing requirements and capacity limits. It isn’t quite the end of an era, but it is a step forward.

But when I wrote a decent chunk of this post (on June 7), many of those limits were still in place, and Chicagoland region was caught in an interesting half-way state that had as much to do with people’s attitudes as anything that was formally required.

I’ve been Chicagoland specifically because the United States, for better or for worse, continues to be a patchwork of restrictions, regulations and approaches. For the past 12 months, I’ve been able to sit down in coffee shops in Kenosha (Wisconsin) and Michigan City (Indiana), but not in Chicago and most suburbs. Masking has also varied – as I mentioned before, Kenoshans really didn’t mask much until the fall 2020 surge in cases.

In the past two months, we saw two major developments.

In late April, CDC issued a recommendation stating that people don’t have to wear masks outdoors – though it still recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings. Then, on May 13, it recommended allowing vaccinated people to go maskless indoors, except in public transit, government buildings, hospitals and some other congregate settings. Illinois and Chicago specifically adjusted their respective regulations accordingly – which meant, in practice, that businesses and public institutions such as libraries could continue requiring everybody to wear masks, if they so chose.

Continue reading “Half-pandemic May”

Traveling In The Opposite Direction

Because I was so absorbed with my move, I didn’t even tell anybody about Boris’s visit – the first time after November 2019.

He technically could come through all that time as a spouse of a US citizen. But first, there were no flights. Then, it was really bad here, and I didn’t want him to come and sit inside for a week. Later, it became possible for me to travel, and you know the rest. Boris said he didn’t want to get sick outside Finland, which I could understand.

Long story short, he felt comfortable traveling after his first dose (In Finland, due to the vaccine shortage, they have a twelve weeks interval between two doses).
Like when I traveled to Finland, he has to present the papers twice more than the number of borders he crossed. But unlike with me, one situation became very serious.

He checked -in for both flights on the way to Chicago, but just when he was about to board the plane in Frankfurt, they didn’t let him on. An official told him that B1 travelers from the Schengen zone are not allowed, and “if he were traveling from Russia, it would be fine.” Boris pleaded with him that in his case, he could travel, and in the end, they reissued him a boarding pass, and he boarded – the last passenger on the flight.

He had no problems passing the border control here, and the officer, as it often happens, was amused with our family arrangements :).

He also had to take the test on the way back, and it turned out that the only way he could do this was to come to the airport yet another hour earlier. It all worked fine, and there were no more issues. However, Boris is still bitter that the Biden administration didn’t do anything with this ridiculous situation when people can’t travel from the Schengen countries but can travel from Russia. And I agree 🙂

Masks

Yesterday, the CDC lifted the mask mandate outdoors. I think it is more psychological than anything else because most people were already using their common sense to judge when they should or should not wear masks. I guess the difference is that now you can go for a walk with a friend without a mask:).

Anyway, it feels good.

Unrelated: Metra UPNW is slowly bringing conductors back on the trains. I started to see conductors walking the trains a couple of weeks ago, and today, I heard for the first time a conductor reprimanding a passenger for not wearing a mask. Starting from June, the conductors will be back in all capacities, checking the passengers’ tickets on the trains.
However, I won’t be commuting by then.

Vaccination News

Now it really feels like mass vaccination. Igor got J&J on Thursday (as a journalist, through a charity event), so now only Vlad and Dylon need their second shots; everybody else is vaccinated. At least 1/3 of my co-workers are vaccinated as well.

Like everybody else, Illios is in the race between vaccines and new virus variances, but vaccines definitely work! During one of the recent press conferences, Dr. Ezike said that out of 1,800 people currently in the hospitals with COVID-19, only 72 were vaccinated. On the other hand, there are more new cases in the city’s parts with the highest vaccination rates, which tells that people are letting their guards down.

I hope that we are going to win this race, I certainly do!

As an eextra bonus – here is Igor’s article about vaccination in Austin.

J&J!!!

On Monday, my vaccination group (1C) finally became eligible in Illinois, which meant that I could start to participate in these endless waiting rooms on the Cook County Health Care department. Starting from last Sunday, I already did three of them, and each time with no luck.  

I heard from other people how they would spend hours on the phone or online trying to find an appointment. And I started to think that having everything that’s going on in my life, I will have to wait until the vaccine becomes more available – I have no time for than hunt.

On Thursday, I received yet another text alert about the release of appointments and was ready to start trying again when I decided to check my personal email. I do not have much time for that during the workday, not like I am not allowed, but I do not have time. For some reason, I looked at it that very moment (and it was April Fool, mind you:)) and I saw a Palatine Township newsletter. There could be absolutely nothing urgent, but for some reason, I opened it. 

The first paragraph read:

April 3 Vaccination available for seniors (65+)

and their caregivers (55+)

While the first part was no news, the second part was, and I could not believe my eyes. There was a phone number to call, and I did. There was no wait, and there was a person, a human being, who answered. I sheepishly started to ask whether that’s true and whether the caregivers indeed are eligible. She asked for my date of birth and said – yes. She put down all my information and said that the vaccination center would call me and please pick up the calls and check my emails.

Twenty minutes later, my phone rang, and another human being was on the line to verify my information. 

I said that I do not want to cut the line, and I am not a full-time caregiver, but the lady said: yes, but you do take care of your mom! Of course, we want you to be vaccinated along with your mom! She told me where I need to go -a senior center on the North Shore, and she added that they do not know which vaccine it is going to be; it will be delivered that morning. But if I would need a second dose, she added, they would schedule it as well.

It all happened so fast! That was the end of my workday on Thursday, and when I came home, I found a consent form in my Inbox. And then it was Friday, and then – today. Everything was organized exceptionally well; there was no wait, the flow was smooth. However, the best part was that when I arrived, they told me that I would get Johnson & Johnson!!! I thought that it would be great, but not that many chances, and it happened! As my mom said, those who are above us realized how little spare time I have! 

Our athorities ask us not to post selfies with vaccination cards anymore amidst the fraud concerns, so here comes a picture of the goodie bag I got in the senior center 🙂

“Be The Change”

I acted according to this statement multiple times in the past couple of weeks. I posted this photo on the instagram today and steered some discussion. Luckily, i have enough supporters 🙂 I am so tired of all this “but it is impossible to wear mask all the time!”

Yes, it is possible to workout in a mask! I purposely chose the hardest on your breath machine for this photo – the stair-climber.