'Part of the team': How local truckers are delivering for health care providers
Truckers for AMS Elite Solutions typically haul massive machinery or construction material for projects ranging from O'Hare International Airport to the CTA's Brown Line.
Last week was a little different.
Thousands of pallets loaded with personal protective equipment to help medical workers battling the COVID-19 coronavirus waited at a warehouse in Springfield.
Mid-West Truckers Association Executive Vice President Don Schaefer emailed members: Who wants to help distribute the vital supplies?
Lake Villa-based AMS volunteered, and at 6:55 a.m. March 30, Operations Manager Corey Heidkamp was dialing a designated number.
"I was thinking it would go into a call center," he said.
Instead, an Illinois Emergency Management Agency executive picked up. "How can I help you?" a voice asked.
"I said, 'How can I help you?'" Heidkamp recalled.
A few minutes later, a downstate AMS trucker had jettisoned his day off and was driving to the state central warehouse in Springfield, where he loaded up with N95 masks and gloves. Then it was north to deliver the vital supplies to a Rockford hospital, followed by Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin and, finally, Highland Park Hospital.
While much of the economy stalls, "trucks are still busy," Schaefer said.
Safety procedures are evolving, but it's possible for a trucker to move from loading dock to loading dock without coming near pickup and delivery personnel, Schaefer said.
Gloves and masks are part of the new normal.
"Nobody wants to cross-contaminate," Heidkamp said.
He and his wife are hunkered down in Arlington Heights, per the state's stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the contagious respiratory disease.
The two are juggling full-time jobs and wrangling their kids, ages 3 and 5.
In the midst of coronavirus disruptions, "it was extremely refreshing to be involved ... to be part of the team" fighting COVID-19, Heidkamp said. "We knew we were giving somebody something they needed."
You should know
Several snowbirds asked the Daily Herald if they should stay at their winter homes in Arizona or return to the suburbs.
The bottom line is: "if the coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading at your destination, but not where you live, you may be at higher risk of exposure if you travel there," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health advise.
For a second opinion, we turned to physicians Michael Bauer with Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital and Mark Gomez with Edward-Elmhurst Health.
In general, snowbirds "should stay where they are -- as long as they're able to practice social distancing, stay relatively quarantined and still have access to their daily necessities," said Bauer, medical director at Lake Forest Hospital.
"If it's not considered mission-critical -- do not go," said Gomez, an internal medicine specialist.
Health experts note that flying or traveling by bus or train means coming into contact with myriad people, and there's little control over social distancing. Driving long distances can be problematic, too, and it's important to check in advance whether gas stations, restaurants and hotels will be open.
Schaumburg reader Myrna Frankel is curious about vehicle crash numbers, given the fact so many people aren't driving to work every day.
"I listen to the radio traffic updates," she writes. "I am astounded that each morning there are reports of many automobile crashes on the roadways. How is this possible with traffic volume so reduced? What are these people doing?"
They can't answer for driver peccadillos, but Illinois State Police report a 25% drop in crashes statewide in March. There were 3,670 crashes in March 2019 compared to 2,763 this March.
Got a COVID-19 transportation-related question or story? Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always count on road work. Resurfacing plus new sidewalk and curb construction starts April 13 in Palatine on Northwest Highway (Route 14).
Expect lane closures between Smith and Hicks roads through August.
Who's driving now?
Just after Illinois school, restaurant and bar closing orders were issued in mid-March, mobility in the Chicago region was at 78% as of March 15, according to CityMapper, which measures the percentage of people on the move.
Add a stay-at-home order March 20, and mobility is at 7% as of April 2, CityMapper reports.
The app helps people plan trips by car or transit and has 20 million users.