Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
I took a two-day trip to Chicago this week to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. It was the first time I’ve traveled since March, and I hadn’t seen my daughters since February. My time with my girls was outstanding and worth the travel and challenges. However, entering into the Chicago metro area was entering into a COVID-19 defense bubble, and it began with the hotel I stayed in.
Upon arrival I was given a letter and verbal instructions on the new rules. There would be no housekeeping service, no daily room cleaning, changing and making of beds, changing of towels and linen, etc. I must phone the front desk if I need any of these items. Furthermore, housekeeping is not allowed in a guest room unless the guest vacates the room for 3 hours. If I need a change of towels, linen, etc. or desire my room to be cleaned, I must arrange it one day in advance. There is no access to public areas. No daily free breakfast. No hanging out in the lounge watching TV. Mask must be worn when outside of my room along with social distancing.
And this was the beginning of my trip. The next morning, I went to a 4-mile walking trail for exercise. I used to run this trail in my younger days, so I am very familiar with it. My first surprise was the number of cars in the lot. There were so many people walking, running, and biking on the trail. I encountered more people while walking 4 miles than I have encountered while walking 150 miles in my village of Ellisville. Even though we were outside in a park, about 90% wore masks, and we all practiced social distancing.
I would learn later that restaurants had signs, “No Mask, No Service.” The city had also established the occupancy capacity for each eating facility. As I drove through Chicago to arrive at my daughter’s high-rise apartment, I was amazed that people walked the sidewalks wearing masks. Masks and social distancing were being observed outside as well as inside of facilities.
At one point I felt like I was in a different world than St. Louis. It was as though the community of Chicago is suffering a great loss, and everyone is pitching in to make sure the intruder who committed the crime would be evicted and not permitted to return. Perhaps this also explains the warmth and friendliness I experienced. Amidst the pandemic, protests, and riots, the residents of the city showed a heart of hospitality and kindness to one another.
As I return home to Ellisville, I am clear where I stand on masks, hand washing, social distancing, and public health. Missouri’s COVID-19 rate is higher than Cook County, where Chicago is located. I pray all within the presbytery will take this pandemic seriously as well. Let’s be well and be safe.
Rev. Craig M. Howard