Kelsey Rettke
Kelsey Rettke

At this point, seven months in and after the week we've all had, I feel it pointless to put phrase to how we're all feeling. I hear you. I empathize with you.

As we continue our coverage of local businesses operating amid the tightening of already tight restrictions in DeKalb County, I've been wrestling with how best to tell this story. How to incorporate vital, public information and data-driven stories, and then to humanize them. How to include voices of our struggling business owners, and those who've suffered physically, financially, emotionally, personally at the hands of this terrible disease.

Humanizing stories allows us to remind ourselves why we're here: it gives us empathy, hopefully, a window into someone else's troubles, a chance to stand in the shoes or have a different pair of eyes to see what they endure. It gives us opportunity to show compassion, take pause and reevaluate our own biases or shortcomings.

A lot of people don't like that, though. Over the past week, we've tackled some pretty difficult stories.

Faranda's Banquet Center, Bill McMahon, said health officials called him and told him Tuesday afternoon he can continue indoor dining until they can clarify whether it's allowed by the state. That call was spurred by a complaint following a social media post which circulated Tuesday showing DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith dining inside for breakfast Tuesday morning.

A day later, multiple DeKalb area restaurants said they would open for indoor dining, igniting a "if they can do it, why can't we' can of worms that has left me, for the past two days, wondering (again) where we go from here.

On Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced mitigations will be restricted even further, beginning Sunday, until we can get our act together. And on Friday, DeKalb District 428 announced classes would return to fully remote for the time being, and the DeKalb County Health Department published the first of a weekly public list of businesses confirmed to be out of mitigation compliance.

Anyone else getting a panicky, deja-vu filled moment of dread? We are going backwards, back to square one or even worse.

DeKalb County has registered 257 more cases of coronavirus since this time last week (11% of all total cases to date), and our positivity rate is 8.7% as of Friday, according to the health department.

But people are fed up. Sources are less inclined to share their woes with us, and we're running out of people to call who want to keep talking about this madness.

We're here, we've hit it. Another brick wall of pandemic fatigue, as we face further mitigations, continued COVID-19 case surges that threaten to topple records set in March and April, a holiday season without loved ones surrounding us, people seem staunchly unwilling to cooperate with shutdowns.

In an already divisive election year, we're seeing schisms break out on the local level, apparently between those urging caution and those declaring their right to choose what they do with their time and their business paramount.

This division will not save us or stamp down our cases.

The DeKalb County Health Department this week told us -- in a conversation which came about during Reporter/Sports Editor Eddie Carifio's thorough work gathering information for an investigative story -- they'd start publishing the names of businesses discovered to be out of compliance with the current indoor dining ban.

This is verifiable, public record information that health department officials assured me is provable: either through a site visit, a phone call or other levels of correspondence, health department officials are attempting to do what they can to bring public places into stricter levels of regulations for the safety of others.

Our reporting this week has been met with disdain: people have compared our coverage and the health department’s decision to Nazi Germany, equating our reporting of public record with the Gestapo and genocide.

It's not a fun place to be. But we have to remember there are no 'bad guys' here. The bad guy is the virus. It's the disease that's left 42 DeKalb County residents dead and many more hospitalized, out of work, without a family member.

That is what we are fighting here. Not each other. If you want to support a local business, order take out or curbside pickup or drop off a check or just straight up cash if you have to. Talk to your local chamber of commerce, municipal leaders, banks to see how you can apply for state COVID-19 relief grants to perhaps take the edge off the devastation your business is feeling. Get tested at the free COVID-19 testing sites in Sycamore and Genoa next week. Wear a mask when out and about. Don't gather in large groups with people you don't live with.

A lot of things are spiraling out of our control right now. But these are the things we can actively do in the coming days. We can do this