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Outbreak at state board of elections reported a week after most staff returned to the office

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2020

* Kelli Smith at the Tribune

The Illinois State Board of Elections closed its Springfield office Tuesday for about two weeks after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, according to an agency spokesperson.

The board was notified Sunday that a staff member was showing coronavirus symptoms and had been tested after coming into contact with someone infected with it, the Illinois Times first reported. Test results came back positive Tuesday, which is when the office decided to close until at least Aug. 10, according to Matt Dietrich, a state board spokesman.

Several other staff members began showing symptoms on Monday and Tuesday and have been tested, Dietrich said in an email.

“Pending those results, we are initiating procedures to have the office disinfected and thoroughly cleaned prior to staff returning to the office,” he said.

Maybe they should spend more time worrying about the HVAC system. This virus appears to mainly spread through the air, after all

Building specialists are poring over how well heavy-duty filters block microbes and considering whether to install systems that use ultraviolet light or electrically charged particles in the ductwork to kill the virus. Companies including Honeywell International Inc., Carrier Global Corp. and Trane Technologies Plc are benefiting from the surge in demand, offering everything from air-monitoring sensors to portable filter machines to help make up for deficiencies in ventilation.

* Bruce Rushton at the Illinois Times

The board became aware of an issue on Sunday, Dietrich said, when an employee who had been in contact with an infected person began exhibiting symptoms. Employees were told of the issue, Dietrich said, and just two people were in the building on Monday, the deadline for filing objections to third-party candidates and ballot issues. Twenty-five objections were filed on Monday, Dietrich said, with objectors required to wear masks in the building while social distancing was maintained.

With outside observers present, the agency is due to review objections on Aug. 6, one day before the building is scheduled to reopen, Dietrich said. “We’ll have to make some provisions to do that,” he said. If the review takes place on Aug. 7, the November election will not be affected, he added. “If we have to wait an extra day, it’s not a crisis,” Dietrich said.

A phased reopening of the agency began last month, when 25 percent of the staff returned to the building. Last week, 75 percent of the staff was back, Dietrich said, and the agency had been scheduled to return to full staffing next week.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments »
  1. - pool boy - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 11:53 am:

    With news like this, it is not looking good for the rest of us.


  2. - NIU Grad - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    Yet we expect our schools to be able to handle this.


  3. - Chatham Resident - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 12:28 pm:

    Also, on Sunday SOS announced that an employee of their Business Services office in Chicago tested positive, and their office is now closed until Aug. 6.

    All SOS employees have been back to work since June 1 (with masks, social distancing, lunch in offices, no break areas, and constant safety compliance reminders). Yet a few weeks later someone at the Schaumburg facility tested positive.

    https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/chicago-business-services-office-closed-after-employee-tests-positive-for-coronavirus/2311664/


  4. - Union thug - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    Just to be devils advocate here. The state struggles to do basic maintenance on some of these old buildings. How do we evpect them to do the HVAC issues all of a sudden?
    Yes I know it is probably going to be needed.
    Oh and please continue askimg for the schools and sports to open back up……


  5. - State worker - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 12:53 pm:

    My office, which just went back to fully staffed, only has plans to disinfect if an employee gets covid. Time to face the music, this is going to be happening everywhere all fall and winter (and longer) and these offices should be sending everyone who can work remotely home and make long term plans to keep them there. Issues with safety, school age kids, elderly, so on


  6. - Merica - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 1:18 pm:

    This is a huge joke. The security guards at Stratton don’t wear masks. You have to touch two sets of doors, one set has a 30lb pull, you have to touch a sign in book that everyone has touched, nothing has been cleaned (elevator buttons and door handles). When people in the Stratton test positive, no one is told. we have to trust “contact tracing” good luck! we are being thrown to the wolves and people are going to die because of it.


  7. - Another State Worker - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    I agree with State Worker @12:53. To the extent state workers are getting the job done from home (assuming that’s an option), it makes no sense to push to return to our offices. The agency I work for has more than enough COVID issues on its plate now. Why ask for more?


  8. - ryan - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 1:48 pm:

    Every 4 years to the day, SBE gets a virus!


  9. - Not a Billionaire - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 2:24 pm:

    One survey I saw said up to half of teaming workers can work mostly from home and this proves they should until a vaccine and even after for most. Add that to close bars and keep the schools closed . This is serious and those 3 actions can allow most other functions to go on with mask wearing.


  10. - Chatham Resident - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 3:14 pm:

    ==When people in the Stratton test positive, no one is told. ==

    Probably because if someone did, the whole Capitol Complex would have to shut down again. Especially since you could still have Stratton-based employees using the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol, Howlett and Archives buildings (although in the case of the Archives, SOS security is limiting public entry and temp-taking into the building to employees based in that building, not Howlett workers using the Archives entrance/tunnel as a cut-through to the Howlett as was common pre-pandemic).


  11. - Practical Politics - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 4:04 pm:

    Rich raises a good point about the HVAC system: is this a sick building? The Illinois State Board of Elections used to have its own offices on Spring Street before relocating to its current location in a former shopping center on McArthur Boulevard with many vacant storefronts. It’s a converted space and the remodeling work was less than optimal.


  12. - concernedvisitor - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 5:27 pm:

    The building that houses the state board of elections doesn’t have air conditioning that works. Staff wear shorts to work because of the temperature in the building. I asked when I went to file paperwork a few weeks ago and was told it hasn’t worked for a couple years. I had a mask on but left very concerned for the safety of the workers. Seems like the board should do better.


  13. - Nope18 - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 6:25 pm:

    Sssuuurree “concerned visitor”. Smooth.


  14. - NoMoreMC - Wednesday, Jul 29, 20 @ 10:09 pm:

    Looks like confirmed cases at Dept of Revenue too. https://newschannel20.com/news/local/2-covid-19-cases-at-department-of-revenue-office-in-springfield


  15. - Chatham Resident - Thursday, Jul 30, 20 @ 5:19 am:

    Re: Revenue COVID-19 cases.

    The article states “Department officials said after learning of the positive cases, employees were notified and work areas were thoroughly sanitized.” No mention of the Willard Ice Building being closed for 14 or so days until employees can quarantine.

    Seems like one set of notification standards for most State buildings and employees, and non-State buildings (which get closed for up to 14 days). Why haven’t the unions said anything about this?


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