CHICAGO — State Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. is not in Springfield attending the legislative session because he has tested positive for coronavirus.
Gonzalez’s district encompasses Little Village, a neighborhood hit hard by the virus. He was tested last weekend as part of a pledge Illinois House members took before returning to Springfield for a three-day session that started Wednesday.
“In preparation for returning to Springfield, many House members took a pledge to get tested for COVID-19 in the days before session was to commence, even if we were asymptomatic or had recovered from a previous infection,” Gonzalez said in an email. “If we tested positive, we would stay home and self-quarantine.
“I was tested over the weekend and received a call Monday morning from the testing site saying that I tested positive. I began to self-quarantine immediately and have continued to work from home. I have distanced myself from the rest of my family and posted on Facebook my diagnosis so that my constituents and my colleagues would know why I would not be able to go in Springfield.”
Gonzalez is one of a handful of legislators not in Springfield for the current legislative session, but he is the only one known to have tested positive for COVID-19.
Legislators from Chicago who skipped the session are State Sen. Robert Martwick (D-10), State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16) and State Rep. Curtis Tarver (D-25).
Martwick, whose district includes parts of Jefferson Park and Portage Park, said as a diabetic with heart issues he’s complying with the Illinois Department of Health guidelines, which advise people with underlying conditions stay home.
Collins, whose district is in Auburn Gresham, said she didn’t go because she’s the sole caregiver of elderly parents and her father is in the hospital after falling.
Calls and emails to Tarver, who represents several South Side neighborhoods, were not returned.
One issue Gonzalez and Martwick support is allowing the State Legislature to convene remotely — an issue being discussed among legislators, although there is no formal vote scheduled on the issue.
“My colleagues who were not able to attend and myself could have been able to vote from home,” Gonzalez said. “I envision a future where legislators can also vote from their phones — myself, a 23-year-old, I already conduct most of my business from my smartphone, and I have answered polls and voted for members of my student government in college on my phone. I think it’s time we look at adopting this technology more actively and closely.”
Martwick echoed Gonzalez, saying, “Every legislative body in this state from the smallest to the largest is operating via remote operations except for the General Assembly. Congress is doing it, for God’s sake. We need to get into the 20th century.”
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.