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Chicago residents brace for coronavirus

Liz Radly, a 66-year-old retired nurse from Lincoln Park, is taking extra precautions to keep from getting the coronavirus, but she is especially paying attention to the safety of her grandchildren.

“I have been watching the news most often, buying hand sanitizers and having my grandchildren wash their hands in my house more often,” Radly said.

Radly is among the Chicago residents trying to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus that originated in China and has since spread to 31 countries, including the United States.

The virus spreads mainly from person-to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Andrea Rosales, a 22-year-old Chicago resident and cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts, said she tries to be careful when dealing with customers.

“I’ve been a little more cautious as far as washing my hands and making sure not to touch people,” Rosales said.

Alex Kemesell, a 31-year-old customer service representative from Evanston, has been using a lot more hand sanitizer and taking more vitamin supplements to boost her immune system in the morning. “I’ve also been avoiding people in general,” Kemesell said. “Or really, I should say, I’ve been avoiding crowds in general.”

Anxiety about the disease seems to be outpacing the virus itself, at least so far. The Target on State and Madison in downtown Chicago has almost completely run out of Lysol. Other store shelves are empty of hand sanitizer, face masks and bacterial wipes.

CVS, 137 S. State St., offers a deal to those buying cleaning products due to panic about the coronavirus. | Taylor Cameron

“I feel like it’s normal for anybody to be worried about something like that just because throughout history diseases have a way of severely damaging the human population and interrupting human life,” said Timothy Gaylor, a 23-year-old fitness instructor who lives in Mount Prospect.

Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. So far, 11 people in the United States have died.

“I follow the news a lot so I know the consequences of what happens when people have that virus and how many people have died from it,” said Daniel Boakye, 30, a parking lot attendant from the south suburbs of Chicago who works at a parking lot downtown. “I’m very concerned about it.”

Boakye said he’s been washing his hands “every time I touch anything that I’m not used to.”

Illinois has seen four cases. Two people still have the active virus, and two have recovered, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a press conference on March 2.

“I handle money and make drinks so I’m washing my hands all the time anyway,” said Ally Boseman, 28-year-old Starbucks barista. “And, I don’t want to sound indifferent about people affected, but it’s not here yet.”

Eliza Marciniuk, 42, manager of the Pure Rain Nail Spa in Park Ridge said shop employees are sterilizing tools more than usual and using hand sanitizer. But “nothing has changed business-wise. People still want to look pretty and get their nails done. “

Christy Oso, 24, a trainer at 9Round kickboxing gym at 8th and State streets in downtown Chicago, said she is not particularly worried.

The Bronzeville resident also works at a fertility clinic said patients come in from all over the world, including from China. She wears a surgical mask when patients are in the office and uses hand sanitizer. She is washing her hands more than usual, she said.

“Honestly I’m not super freaked out about the virus,” Oso said. “I live in a country where I have health insurance and really good access to care.”

Leslie Grove, 22, a foreign language teacher from the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, said she also was not terribly concerned.

“I feel there is a bit of mass hysteria,” Grove said. “Living in a city, we are always at risk. If it broke out, I imagine I would just stay at home.”

Scott Barnes, Isabel Colado, Mary Filatova, Martin French, Fiona Good-Sirota, Savannah Jonkman, Marianna Koonce, Keyaria Lovett, Olivia Paus, Liam Sweeny, Myer Lee Turner and Carly Young contributed to this story.

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