The U.S. began seeing the effects of COVID-19 in late February 2020, and Illinois was no exception.
Businesses across the state shut down to preserve the health of their customers and employees, many remaining fully closed or partially closed for many months.
To keep our skydiving guests and crew safe during the peak of the infection, Chicagoland Skydiving Center joined them and stayed safely closed until we got the green light from the state of Illinois and Ogle County.
But a few months have passed since COVID-19 hit its global peak, and restrictions are gradually being rescinded. CSC is now back open for freefalling, but things still aren’t 100% back to “normal.”
Here’s how the coronavirus has affected skydiving at CSC.
The State of COVID in Illinois
Since the start of the pandemic, The Illinois Department of Public Health has diligently tracked its spread throughout the state. As of the time of publication, the number of confirmed cases tallies close to 150,000 statewide.
While the number of new cases have fallen dramatically from the beginning of May, there’s always the need for caution in the face of such a contagious virus. Most importantly, our state’s recovery rate is around 90%, meaning that almost all of those who contract the coronavirus are surviving.
These optimistic results are why our state’s stay-at-home order was lifted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on May 29th. The reopening of businesses in Illinois with adjusted safety precautions is in effect under varying reopening phases.
On June 26, we moved into our fourth stage of reopening, with all retail stores, restaurant dining, personal care, and other businesses allowed to operate nearly business-as-usual with additional safety measures.
In light of these changes, CSC reopened on May 29th as well. We also knew that we had to take the safety of our staff and customers more seriously than ever.
Our Updated COVID-19 Jump Safety Policies
We’ve always taken safety seriously. We go above and beyond many of the safety criteria that are required by law, and we have a perfect safety record as a result.
Does it cost extra money? Of course.
Does it ensure our customer and staff’s safety? Absolutely.
But the coronavirus presented a whole new range of safety challenges.
While we happily reopen for the season, we instituted new policies to protect the CSC family and our customers.
Check out this video from Chris, our director of operations, where he explains our new procedures.*
*Please note that a lot will change over the course of our season, so you can expect changes to our policies as we progress and learn more about how to protect you and operate our business efficiently.
How We Pivoted before Reopening
During the shutdown, our team was surprisingly motivated, considering that they couldn’t do their usual jobs.
They continued working through spring and early summer with many of our team shifting to digital responsibilities that they had never tried before. Our motivated instructors cameoed as content generators, helping us write articles, create fresh content, and even shoot new videos.
The whole time, we practiced the recommended safety measures to ensure our team could continue working to the best of their abilities. The few times we did meet — almost exclusively to film new video — we wore masks, maintained safe distances, and focused on getting the work done.
Throughout March and April, the beginning of our busy season, that’s how we continued pressing forward.
Then, around June, the restrictions started to relax a little. We opened for business once again — but business looked different from last year.
Our staff and skydivers now wear masks at all times. We keep an eye out for common symptoms of COVID-19. If a team member feels the least bit sick, we ask them to stay home — just to be safe.
These are only a few of the changes we’ve made. And while change can sometimes be hard to accept, our team has taken to it like it’s second nature.
Here’s what a few of our staff members have to say about the changes we’ve been making at CSC:
“I feel so privileged that we can skydive during these times BECAUSE of the precautions and measures CSC continues to take to protect and prevent the spread of COVID. As skydivers, we tend to go crazy when going long periods without jumping, and CSC is doing an amazing job of keeping us airborne while maintaining an impressive level of protection. I feel extremely safe knowing that the staff, customers, and anyone stepping foot onto this drop zone are considerate of others and compliant with the policies put in place.”
Instructor & Guest Relations Associate
“I like the staged opening, the way it was run with most of us having a longer period of not jumping. I have no worries when I am here and feel safer at the dz (dropzone) than anywhere else. We are all a team and in this together, and we want to keep doing this, so we have to hold each other accountable.”
Instructor & Guest Relations Associate
At the end of the day, it’s the CSC team that has made it possible for us, as a company, to persevere through one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in more than 60 years of business. We’re proud of how the CSC team stayed positive, safe, and determined in the face of adversity, especially when it came to their innovative spirit.
But our team is only half of the equation in the experience of skydiving.
The other half is the customer.
Customer Reactions to Our Reopening
During reopening, our staff kept a close eye on our customers’ perspectives to ensure we were providing a safe and fun experience for all.
Just like our staff, we couldn’t be prouder of the supportive, good-hearted, and positive feedback that we’ve heard from our customers.
These are a few of the things that our customers had to say after we reopened with increased safety measures:
“Absolutely awesome first jump. Cody and Gustavo are pros. I felt super safe and they had me laughing the whole time. [I] thought they did a great job making the experience safe during COVID-19. Everyone wore masks, practiced social distancing, and they sanitized everything well. I would 100% go back.”
“Super friendly staff. I felt completely safe the whole time.
There really is nothing like it.”
“As a professor of community & public health, I am impressed with the protocols Doug & the CSC staff have implemented to maintain safety throughout the pandemic. Masks & social distancing were the norm when I visited a few weeks ago & the CSC team pulls it off without losing the chill DZ vibe that we love.”
All things considered, this is all good news.
At the same time, we know that everyone is looking forward to the pandemic concluding so that life can go back to normal (or so that we can discover a “new” normal).
So we wanted to answer one more question in this post — how long will these changes last?
How Long Will the Changes Last?
While our customers are thankful that we’re putting an even bigger emphasis on safety, many have asked us how long we think the changes will last. We’re no fortune tellers and have no idea how this pandemic will affect our community and nation at large moving forward.
What we do know, however, is that we will stay up-to-date on all things COVID and make decisions moving forward in accordance with our governor’s recommendations and the comfort and greater safety of our management, staff, and customers alike.
In the meanwhile, we have a few exciting projects cooking up in case our jump season is cut short, including an online Freefall University where skydivers can continue to educate themselves and work towards achieving proper licensing, despite restrictions on air time.
In the meantime, we plan to continue pushing forward through the busy season and practicing increased safety measures.
As CSC President Doug Smith said:
“We have been pleasantly surprised at our customer volume since we started for the season. After not being able to open in April & May, we had no idea what to expect once we opened. We put a lot of effort into our COVID strategy and made it clear in our marketing that we are taking the health of our staff and guests very seriously. We needed our guests to know that they were safe both in the skies and from COVID. My team rose to the challenge and have done an amazing job. As a result, business is very strong.”
Schedule a Jump with One of the Safest Teams in Skydiving
While we are temporarily limiting the number of people allowed on the aircraft per takeoff, we’re now accepting bookings for freefalls. Rest assured, we will never charge cancellation or rescheduling fees should you decide to change your plans. The safety of you and our staff are of the utmost importance to us.
After so many months cooped up, are you ready for the biggest breath of fresh air you’ve ever had? Book your skydive today!