I am still in Chicago helping with my Mom who remains in hospice at our house on the Northside. One thing that has brought joy to her is the blooming of her tree outside of her window. It is one of the small pleasures brought by Spring for many people who remain locked in during the pandemic. I did encounter one dog however who shows that lack of freedom does not mean a lack of opportunity.
I personally found inspiration a few doors down from a dog that made the pandemic work for him. With the parks closed, side streets in Chicago are fairly crowded. This dog has learned to watch people approach and roll a ball in front of them. As soon as they kick it back, they are hooked (as I was) into an endless round of fetch. I have watched this dog for weeks ensnare strollers in a brilliant ploy for endless games of fetch. He is a testament to confined canines everywhere.
The crowded side streets do undermine the logic of closing the nearby parks. New York is facing the same problem and considering opening up streets (while closing them to car traffic) to allow greater distancing for people getting fresh air. In Chicago, it may be time to consider closing certain parts of the parks while allowing people to use the great space for walking and exercise. Otherwise, people will continue to do so in far more congested areas like the side streets.
Obviously, public health concerns must predominate and there are clearly major concerns to be addressed in a city with a high number of cases. Chicago is approaching 50,000 cases and there are legitimate risks to be avoided. Other cities are grabbling with these choices, including Minneapolis which just put some park areas under a new closure order. Yet, there is a serious public policy issue to resolve when park closures could have the unattended consequence of reducing rather than increasing social distancing. Experts are reporting that “quarantine fatigue” are leading to more and more people leaving their homes and defying guidelines.
There are also controversies in Chicago over parties held in defiance of the mayor’s orders. My observations on the Northside (albeit limited) is that people continue to make efforts to socially distance and many are wearing masks. However, more and more people are now going out and this means that people are moving into the streets to avoid passing close to others, creating a danger of being hit by cars. As these numbers increase, it may be worth considering opening up space for exercise while still imposing limits on gatherings. People are already exercising along the edges of the parks in what seems rising numbers. One option would be to open the park while keeping playgrounds, skate parks and other high-density areas closed.
Besides, I am interested in the next ploy of this dog if traffic slows down. Somehow I think he has a plan. Indeed, I am prepared to join his presidential campaign for 2020.