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Doing without tree-trimming and other city services will help us beat COVID-19

No one likes staying inside or losing services, but both are necessary. It’s part of the new world we are living in.

A street sweeper makes the rounds on Wacker Drive on a summer day.
Sun-Times file photo

If the city decides to call a timeout on tree trimming, street sweeping, tree removal and other services until the coronavirus threat ebbs, it’s part of the new world we are living in.

One of the unexpected effects of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner John Tully said, is that people are afraid to come out and move their cars when it’s time for tree trimming or street sweeping. It doesn’t seem fair to ticket, boot or tow them.

On Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed Tully’s comments earlier in the week that those services will likely be postponed until the city gets COVID-19 under control. City officials are doing this for the same reason they closed the lakefront, downtown Riverwalk, 606 Trail and other public spaces: If people are too close together, they can spread the virus and undercut the effort to slow its spread.

No one likes staying inside or losing services, but both are necessary. In New York, a hotspot for the virus, social distancing policies appear to have slowed the virus’ spread from doubling every day to doubling every 4.7 days. Even so, one New York doctor told CNN, “We ended up getting our first positive patients — and that’s when all hell broke loose. ... We don’t have the machines, we don’t have the beds.”

Total U.S. cases on Friday topped 100,000, with more than 1,500 deaths. The United States now has the most confirmed cases of any country. In Illinois, the total number of cases reported Friday was 3,026, with 36 deaths.

Many people are cooperating with efforts to combat COVID-19. Schools in Chicago and across the state remain closed, and families have had to adjust. Bars and restaurants are closed, forcing patrons to forgo socializing and leaving workers unemployed. Large gatherings are prohibited, which has forced all sorts of people to struggle to adapt. Even when it’s inconvenient, everyone else needs to pitch in.

Chicago and Illinois have to pull out all the stops in trying to slow the virus. Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth joined Pritzker in asking that all 102 counties request for a federal disaster declaration in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. That would provide more resources for the state to fight the virus and help residents.

At the same time, we need to resist President Donald Trump’s call to end social distancing and other efforts by Easter so that businesses can resume operating. The best way to get the economy on solid footing again is to get the coronavirus under control. A workforce with sick employees won’t be productive.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, has said we have to be prepared for the possibility that the virus could return for a second cycle even after it appears we have managed to control it. “I think it is more likely than not this is going to turn around and come back for another season,” he said. “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”

That means we have to continue to put sensible public-health policies in place and adhere to them. If there is a second wave, we should ensure we are better prepared than we were this time.

If we take such warnings seriously, we shouldn’t worry if the streets aren’t cleaned or the trees aren’t trimmed for some time.

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