COVID-19: One Year On

COVID-19: One Year On

Phil_KiralyBy Village Manager Phil Kiraly

It seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote my March 13, 2020 Manager’s Blog, announcing the closure of Village Hall and marking what would become for most of us the point at which the COVID-19 pandemic truly became real. There has been a lot of talk this week about what has changed since the start of the pandemic one year ago; I know I have certainly been thinking a lot about it. What started as a temporary pause to help “flatten the curve” evolved into a shutdown and extraordinary loss of life that none of us could have expected.

For us here in Glencoe, this past year has been one of reimagined realities, finding and focusing on what keeps us safe and making sure we pulled together to navigate what seemed like an unimaginable world. Last year, I urged us to remain supportive as a community and to approach whatever was coming with the mindset that we are in this together. Being the great place that Glencoe is, we really did unite as one community.

I’m sure we can each think of a list of ways that Glencoe has come together throughout the past year, but a few that come to mind for me are:

  • We listened and adhered to public health guidance (and still do), and we wore masks and kept our distance from one another.
  • We supported our local businesses, enjoyed carryout from our favorite Glencoe restaurants and even dined outdoors through the winter.
  • Families found ways to engage with others safely (remember the Bear Hunt in our windows?).
  • We found new joy in a bike ride, a run through the neighborhood or playing a round of golf at the Glencoe Golf Club (we had a record 41,000 rounds played last year!).
  • We started getting our books from the Glencoe Public Library through curbside service.
  • We watched streamed performances from Writers Theatre.
  • Celebrated holidays without our normal traditions in place but worked to make them memorable (remember Memorial Day over Zoom, our modified 4th of July parade through town and the many lights in downtown Glencoe despite not being able to have our spectacular Light the Lights festivities?).
  • We helped our children learn remotely and in hybrid-learning environments.

The Village also changed the way we provided services:

  • Our Public Works and Public Safety teams never missed a beat, though we adjusted schedules and shifts to make sure our employees stayed safe.
  • Village Hall was closed to the public for more than three and a half months, and our entire administrative team worked from home for almost that whole time.
  • We adapted our processes so that residents could transact most business with us over the phone, over e-mail or through the Village’s website.
  • We carefully reduced the Village budget by $2.5 million to help weather the unknown.
  • We adapted rules for outdoor dining in downtown Glencoe and advocated for our business community by accommodating changes to our typical processes.
  • Every Village meeting (whether of the Village Board or our many committees and commissions) has been held remotely since last March, and we have seen more public engagement and participation now that residents can tune in on Facebook or YouTube.

COVID-19 was not our only complex community issue in the past year either. Even through the pandemic:

  • There were numerous public meetings on the Forest Edge subdivision at 1801 Green Bay Road (the former Hoover Estate).
  • There were frequent and productive discussions by the Community Relations Forum on equity and inclusion.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Booth Cottage was relocated to Glencoe Park District property.
  • Tudor Court was reconstructed.
  • The Village replaced almost all our 3,200 water meters and thousands of feet of water main.
  • And the Village passed a balanced budget, with revenues beginning to reach back to pre-pandemic levels.

Through it all, the Village and our partners at District 35, the Glencoe Park District, Glencoe Public Library, Glencoe Family Services, Cook County Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Public Health and neighboring municipalities worked closely together. We met at least weekly (and often more frequently) to get accurate and timely information to residents and businesses, to impact public policy to keep Glencoe safe and most importantly, to work together in service to our community. We always worked to do the best we could with the information that was available, and I am immensely proud of all we did together in the most challenging of times.

And while we may be inclined to only reflect, it’s also important to look forward. 2021 is already shaping up to be a better and brighter year than 2020. Safe and effective vaccines are being administered, though more slowly than we’d like – we are currently working on ways to provide more vaccines locally to vulnerable populations. Our children are resuming fully in-person learning in a few weeks. Indoor dining is returning. The Library is reopening more fully, and Park District programs are returning…the list goes on.

Although we are now starting the second year of the pandemic, I am more hopeful than I was last year. Through the toughest parts of the last year, we looked out for one another. We supported our community. We aren’t out of the woods yet, and we have work still to do to stay healthy and safe; even so, I know that if we can make it through the past year, we’re able to get through anything.

To quote from my message last year, “the Village is here for you if you need us. The best part is, I know you’re all here for us too.” Thank you for always supporting our team at the Village. I hope you felt we returned the favor.