It’s been hard to miss what’s going on: empty shelves in stores, stock market woes and even presidential candidates bumping elbows instead of shaking hands.
The COVID-19 epidemic has dominated the lives of Chicagoans for the last week. All bars and restaurants closed their doors to dine-in guests on Monday and will remain that way until at least March 30.
The same day, President Donald Trump instructed Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines grow more intense. Urging people to avoid large gatherings and maintain physical distance from others to reduce the chances of transmitting a contagious disease or infection.
On Thursday, the Damen Student Center and Simpson Living-Learning Center were overwhelmed by students panicking to stock up on resources while also not letting their dining dollars go to waste. Some students carried display boxes of candy and chips while others filled carts with toilet paper and paper towels — a dwindling resource if the Target store across from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus is any metric.
The disposable paper products had been emptied from their shelves at Target Thursday evening, leaving only a sign stating each customer could only purchase four packs of water bottles, paper towels, toilet paper or sanitizing products.
A group of students, seemingly trying to make light of the situation, strolled around campus in hazmat suits as the chaos of the morning began to subside. The Damen Student Center was unusually empty for a Thursday night and lacked the smell of Bleecker Street’s chicken tenders.
Fairfield Hall was quiet Sunday night. The people that usually hang out in the common area were replaced by overflowing donation boxes. Furniture and mattress toppers surrounded the couches.
Monday was a different kind of chaos. Students had been vacating campus since an hour after the email went out announcing classes were moving online and the dorms would be vacated. The fifth day of the mass exodus from campus meant there were more parking spots, though those were often filled quickly by cars stopping by to move more students out.
The Damen Student Center was eerily silent. The usually bustling atrium area was clear except for the tables — no chairs to encourage social distancing. While Loyola’s beloved Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM, remained in her office, campus simply didn’t feel normal.
In the Loyola Information Commons, a few students and alumni worked away at computers while the library staff turned over chairs and crammed them into study rooms — more measures to encourage social distancing.
The Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, a building known for having a line of students extending outside waiting for the elevators even in January, looked desolate. The stairway was quiet and every sound echoed up the levels of the building.