The pandemic has stretched across all 50 states. The novel coronavirus has hit major cities the hardest and spread slower in rural areas. But residents of small towns in central Illinois said they nonetheless worry about the likelihood of the pandemic striking their communities.
Residents of small, rural communities feel the threat, said Chris Wilder, mayor of Chenoa. Over the weekend, the potential hazard became a reality for the town of 1,800. Chenoa saw its first two confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Wilder.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we would have cases, but when,” said Wilder.
“People are doing very well. It’s very hard to literally stay confined to your home,” said Chenoa’s mayor.
Keeping a safe distance from one’s neighbors is not the common practice in small towns where people attend the same churches and schools and shop at the handful of local businesses.
In Lexington, the local grocer and Dollar General stores are working hard to keep shelves stocked with essential items, said Mayor Spencer Johansen.
“I check in with them daily to see how things are going. They sell out of milk, bread and toilet paper sometimes but they’re trying to keep things stocked,” the mayor said of the local stores.
People have been doing “an excellent job” of following the social distancing guidelines, said Johansen.
“They understand the only way we’re going to combat this is by abiding by the rules. There’s a sense of fear and understanding. They’re bucking up and I don’t hear any complaints,” said the mayor.
Still, the quiet that follows a shelter-in-place order highlights the loss to the community.
“We work really hard to build up our Main Street then you see an empty street,” said Johansen.
Like other communities in Illinois, Lexington has closed its city offices to the public and hosts city council meetings via the telephone.
Residents of Downs are managing to stay connected and support local businesses during the pandemic, said Mary Goveia, village board member.
“We’re doing fine. People are following the rules as they’re supposed to,” said Goveia.
The apprehension that someone down the street could be stricken with the virus is always present, said Goveia.
“It’s harder in a small town,” said Goveia.
13 people in the Rolling Meadows Senior Living Facility in the Christian County community of Taylorville have contracted COVID-19. There are a total of 22 residents at that apartment complex for seniors run by Lutheran Social Services. it is one of the first outbreaks at a senior facility in downstate Illinois. The complex is on quarantine and visitors are banned till further notice.
McLean County has reported 17 confirmed cases of the virus so far and one death. The disease has spread across the U.S. in all 50 states, including more than 5,000 in Illinois resulting in 73 deaths in 53 counties.
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