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Take it from me: COVID-19 is serious

The precautions we’ve taken over the past few months have saved lives and prepared us to care for those suffering symptoms far more severe than mine.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul speaks during a 2019 news conference in Chicago.
Noreen Nasir File/AP

My experience with the coronavirus began well before I became infected. Like many, I was caught off guard by the abrupt shift to sheltering in place. And like many, I worried about the impact on my family — especially due to the return of my college-aged children, one of them a senior deeply saddened that his collegiate experience had been cut short and that he had to say goodbye to his friends far sooner than expected.

I was also concerned about the need to balance our office’s responsibility to serve the public with protecting the health and wellness of employees. Throughout the pandemic, some employees have worked remotely. Others continue to report to our offices around the state.

We must now address concerns brought on by the pandemic, such as investigating price-gouging and employers not protecting employees from COVID-19, and defending Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders against lawsuits.

It has been extremely troubling that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color. The protests for racial justice add to the urgency.

Then recently, I joined the the more than 138,500 Illinois residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. I want to strongly caution all Illinois residents: This virus is serious, and we are not out of the woods just yet.

It started with chills and chattering teeth, followed by a stubborn cough and sore throat. With the weather warming and the state moving into Phase 3, I didn’t immediately assume I had become infected. But as my cough persisted, and my chills became night sweats, I realized I needed medical advice. Upon the advice of my doctor, I took advantage of Northwestern Hospital’s walk-up testing. The next day, I was told I tested positive for COVID-19.

My attention immediately turned to the people I might have exposed. My first concern was for my family. My other concern was for my office and maintaining operations while making sure my staff sought medical advice and self-isolated and got tested if needed. We are following public health guidelines to clean and sterilize our Thompson Center offices while staff who have had regular, in-person contact with me work from home.

I also notified the organizers of events I attended, as well as some of the attendees so that they could self-isolate and seek medical advice.

As for myself, I have self-isolated in my bedroom and joined those working from home. I have been frustrated by my confinement and the exhaustion that makes phone calls or Zoom meetings feel like I just played a basketball game. My symptoms, while extremely uncomfortable at times, were mild, and I did not have to be hospitalized. I feel fortunate to not have experienced some of the severe symptoms. I want to issue a strong warning: COVID-19 is not gone.

We all need to listen to the experts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and prevent our loved ones and neighbors from getting sick. I understand and empathize with businesses that have had to close and the thousands of people who have been unable to work. Please know your tremendous sacrifice has helped prevent further loss of life in our state. My infection has reaffirmed for me that no matter how much I may desire to return to normal life, the precautions we’ve taken over the past few months have saved lives and prepared us to care for those suffering symptoms far more severe than mine. Take it from me: Even a taste of what this virus can do will convince you not to let your guard down just yet.

Kwame Raoul is Illinois attorney general.