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Austin public library branch closes due to high COVID rate among staff

The West Side branch of the Chicago Public Library system has closed its doors after multiple staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The Chicago Public Library’s Austin branch, 5615 W. Race Ave.
The Chicago Public Library’s Austin branch, 5615 W. Race Ave.
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A panel discussion on a new photography exhibit scheduled for Wednesday at the Austin library branch was canceled on Wednesday, and the library closed, with little warning.

While other closed branches of the Chicago Public Library have listed reasons for closure, Austin did not.

But in an email obtained by the Sun-Times, one of the event organizers told more than 20 people who had planned to attend that a number of library staff had tested positive for COVID-19, though symptoms were minor.

A Chicago Public Library spokesman said the branch would reopen Saturday at the latest, and possibly by Friday. Other branches have closed briefly due to COVID-19, but no other locations are closed right now.

The spokesperson added testing was completed while staff were on holiday vacation before the new year so there was no delay between positive results and closure.

Organizers said the exhibit, “Everyday Activists,” will remain at the library through the end of January, and events will be rescheduled when the library reopens and COVID-19 cases decrease.

The closure comes with COVID-19 cases once again soaring, and Chicago Public Schools shutting down after the Chicago Teachers Union voted against in-person teaching Tuesday night, leaving some parents scrambling to find childcare.

Three other library branches are closed — the Richard J. Daley and West Lawn branches for “building improvements” and the Galewood-Mont Clare branch because it is “too small for social distancing.”

The Chicago Public Library website also states there are measures in place for contact tracing and cleaning.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.