One year of COVID-19: How Chicago responded to the unfolding crisis, from canceled sports and events to families searching for a new normal

Chicago Tribune staff, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

This time last year, Illinois residents were asked to stay home indefinitely as a novel virus took hold across the region. One year later, many still wonder when it will be safe to return to the routines they left behind.

It didn’t take long for the coronavirus outbreak to bring life as we knew it to a halt. As public health experts raced to fight an unknown enemy, local leaders made tough choices to save lives, and residents were left largely isolated in the face of patchy and sometimes contradictory directives. Since then, medical and technological breakthroughs have moved us toward something more closely resembling the world we once knew, but not without some major sacrifices made along the way.

Here’s a look back at those early days, what we’ve learned since, and what lies ahead on the road to recovery.

What we’ve learned about COVID-19 at the one-year mark: The power of mRNA, the threat of virus mutations and the difficulty of vaccine rollout

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, even some of the most informed people knew little about coronaviruses — and far less about SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that was upending the world as we knew it. That was just the beginning. Since then, we’ve learned a great deal more. Many public health experts believe the light at the end of the tunnel is real, if the world remains vigilant about taking precautions, tracking cases and getting vaccines into arms. Read more here.

A year of COVID-19 deaths: 10 stories of how Illinois families are facing life after losing a loved one

More than 20,000 have died so far in the state, but that number, horrifying as it is, doesn’t begin to capture the loss felt by those left behind. On a solemn anniversary, we spoke with Chicago-area families about facing life after COVID-19 claimed their loved ones. Read more here.

During pandemic, Illinois saw 27% jump in deaths, among worst in the US. One reason: There were two waves.

First came a tough spring surge, when COVID-19 killed thousands of Illinois residents. Then, an even more brutal one in the fall and winter. Through it all, Illinois managed to avoid the overwhelmed hospitals seen in other states. But a new Tribune analysis of pandemic deaths shows that the two waves took an extraordinarily high toll on the state’s population. Read more here.

How did life change during the last year of the pandemic? Here’s what readers told us, in 7 charts.

At this time last year, it was still uncommon to see someone wearing a mask in public. Now, the CDC advises people to wear two in some cases. That’s just one of many new precautions we’ve grown accustomed to during the pandemic. We asked readers questions about how their lives differ now from the early days of the pandemic and how they view the future. Here’s what they shared.

Families who’ve been coping with the pandemic for a year still need to keep an eye on mental health

As we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic, life before lockdown sometimes feels like a faint memory, as families do their best to find the mix of safety and mental health during what is rated the second deadliest event in Chicago history. Read more here.

10 days that changed everything: A look back at how the pandemic unfolded in Chicago on Twitter

On March 11, 2020, the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic, turning a surreal crisis into a sudden reality for many Chicagoans. Here’s a look back at how the early days of the pandemic unfolded across our socially distanced public square — Twitter — and changed everything.

It started with the NBA on March 11, 2020. 24 hours later, COVID-19 shut down the entire sports world. A look back on all that transpired — and what’s happened since.

March is one of the busiest months on the sports calendar, and last year was no exception. Until it wasn’t. We were with Chicago sports teams here and around the country when COVID-19 changed everything. Here’s what transpired when the sports world ground to a halt — and what has happened since then. Read more.

Where were you when you realized the pandemic would change everyday life? Here’s what our readers said.

Everyone has a story for when it hit them that the coronavirus pandemic was going to change everyday life. Maybe you were sitting at the office, riding the CTA or at the grocery store looking for toilet paper. So we asked you, our readers, to share where that moment was. Here’s what you told us.

The pandemic in photos

The shutdown last spring led to packed stores and hospitals and a deserted city center. Here’s a look back at those early days.

A year ago, COVID shut down Chicago’s arts. Where are we now?

When it comes to the world of arts and entertainment, a sector to which COVID-19 brought utter devastation, this is the moment to pause and reflect on a year of unspeakable losses. We asked a cross-section of Chicagoland arts professionals to recount what it was like one year ago this weekend, at the very moment when their professional worlds blew up. Read more here.