AUBURN GRESHAM — At least four people who visited Chicago polling places have contracted coronavirus — including one South Side poll worker who died from the virus. Now, election officials are working to warn residents who visited the polling places in question.
A city worker who helped out at the Zion Hill Baptist Church polling place in Auburn Gresham on the March 17 died on April 1, reports NBC 5. The Chicago Board of Elections is now notifying workers, voters and others who were in that polling place, said Jim Allen, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections.
The Board of Elections is also notifying workers and voters at three other polling places of possible coronavirus cases in people who visited on Election Day, Allen said.
The other cases are reported to be linked to polling stations at Avalon Park’s Montclare Senior Residences, Dunning’s Dever Elementary School and the Near West Side’s Jackson Language Academy, according to the board of elections.
Auburn Gresham, where the deceased poll worker was stationed, has the largest outbreak of confirmed coronavirus cases in the city. It’s also the home neighborhood of the state’s first COVID-19 fatality, 61-year-old Patricia Frieson.
The coronavirus cases come after a chaotic Election Day marred by long lines, polling place confusion and concerns over the spread of the virus. Voter turnout was substantially lower compared to recent primary elections.
The Board of Elections asked the state to call off in-person voting on the March 17 election day. Gov. JB Pritzker said he did not have the authority to call off in-person voting, and instead his administration pushed voters to submit mail-in ballots.
“I couldn’t shut it down,” Pritzker said Monday, saying state law requires the Legislature to take that action. “We were encouraging people not to go to the polls if they could avoid going to the polls.”
With the general election set for November, Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said they are working to protect voters and poll workers by encouraging mail-in ballots, among other measures.
“We cannot have a repeat of what happened on March 17,” Lightfoot said Monday. We have to put in place every measure that we can to really place an emphasis on voting by mail. November seems like a long time away, but it will be on us quickly.”
The coronavirus cases linked to in-person voters or poll workers come as Chicago is seeing a flattening of the curve of reported infections. Monday’s number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois was the lowest in a week.
Pritzker on Monday expressed optimism that models showing a mid- to late April peak in cases would be realized.
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