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Toni Preckwinkle: We are one Cook County, one people, in fighting the coronavirus

How we help and support one another now will define this chapter in our history.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
‘The people of Chicago and Cook County will rise to the challenge,” writes Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Photo credit should read KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

I have seen a lot in my 73 years. We have confronted terrorism, earthquakes and tornadoes, heavy spring rains and flooding and much more. Through it all, I know this to be true:

We always have resolve.

We always recover.

We always move forward.

Chicago rose from the ruins of the Great Fire of 1871 to ultimately become one of the world’s great cities.

During the flue pandemic of 1918, Cook County’s health system was at the forefront of treating patients, and it is now among the leading public health systems in the United States.

We in Cook County are not immune to disasters, natural or man-made. We now face the challenge of confronting the COVID-19 virus. A pandemic is something that very few of us have ever experienced: an invisible, odorless, colorless enemy with no physical manifestation.

Your concern and uncertainty are natural. It’s understandable. It’s human.

Yet it is how we now act and react, how we mindfully alter our daily routines to adhere to the guidance of medical experts, how we cope with the impacts we all feel and, importantly, how we help and support one another that will define this chapter in our history.

At Cook County, we have approached the pandemic in a cautious, yet deliberate, way. Our actions and decisions are informed by the best, most reputable science, data and information available. We are collaborating with our own health experts and with our partners at the city, state and federal levels. With our workers and small businesses in mind, I have called on my Bureau of Economic Development to create a Cook County Coronavirus Economic Response Team.

This team is composed of dozens of County employees and is already working on an economic recovery plan of action. We will draw upon all of our resources to do whatever it takes to support businesses and families in this turbulent time.

We are working closely with sister agencies like the Housing Authority of Cook County, the Cook County Land Bank and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, and with all separately elected County officials as well as with our colleagues at all levels of city, state and federal government to develop a comprehensive response for businesses, workers and residents during this challenging time.

We are also working in lockstep with the National Association of Counties as we make requests of the federal government on behalf of Cook County cities, towns and villages for resources that will include but not be limited to:

● More COVID-19 test kits

● Personal protective equipment and supplies — such as masks, gowns, face shields, and disinfectants

● Immediate funding for staff and supplies, rather than waiting for federal reimbursement at a later date

● Emergency Solutions Grants to assist homeless shelters, families and veterans in jeopardy of becoming homeless

● Community Development Block Grants Special Disaster Relief Funding to support neighborhoods and communities.

It is clear that local and state governments must continue to take the lead during this uncertain chapter in our nation’s history. I am proud of the affirmative steps at containment our city, county and state have taken — together — and the seriousness with which we have all approached this crisis. And this is just the beginning.

This kind of collaboration, cooperation and partnership is what it will take from all of us — from the seats of government to your own home — to steer us through the coming weeks and, perhaps, months of this situation.

Today is difficult. I know this. Tomorrow may be harder. And it may seem hollow to say we are all in this together, but it is the simple truth. We are one community. We are one Cook County.

While we are challenged now and will be challenged in the days and weeks to come, I am hopeful.

I’m hopeful when I hear of cases like the team of nurse epidemiologists at Cook County Health who have recently trained thousands of clinical staff on proper procedures for screening, administering testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients and how, as frontline healthcare workers, to keep themselves safe. No matter the day, time, questions or concerns, they have made themselves available 24-7.

I am hopeful when I hear of social impact organizations such as My Block, My Hood, My City, which have been distributing care packages to seniors in need of the most basic supplies, such as food, toilet paper and water.

I am hopeful when I see our first responders throughout all of Cook County, including the clinicians and public health professionals, and local units of government coming together ready to serve.

We are navigating uncharted waters. We are all making difficult choices every day. These choices are hard and ones that we would rather not have to make — but when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, our local governments and the people of Chicago and Cook County will rise to the challenge.

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