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Pritzker: Senior staffer positive for COVID-19, so ‘rest of the team, myself included, is working from home’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker himself has tested negative for the coronavirus, according to the governor’s office

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his daily briefing from his Gold Coast home on Monday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his daily briefing from his Gold Coast home on Monday.
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A member of Gov J.B. Pritzker’s senior staff has tested positive for COVID-19, and all staffers — including the governor — will work from home for an “appropriate isolation period,” the governor announced on Monday.

The staff member — whom Pritzker acknowledged worked “down the hall” from him and attended daily meetings with him — was asymptomatic but tested positive late last week.

All of Pritzker’s senior staffers were tested last week and the Democratic governor and the rest of the staffers have tested negative. Pritzker was tested once again early Sunday and tested negative, his office said.

“One member of my senior staff who was not exhibiting any symptoms has tested positive for COVID-19 and for that reason, in accordance with the best public health practices and protocol, and recommendations of doctors, the rest of the team, myself included, is working from home,” Pritzker said during a briefing in his Chicago home on Monday afternoon.

Pritzker did not disclose the identify of the staffer, citing a potential breach of privacy. But he said the staff member did not attend any of the daily COVID-19 press briefings.

For more than eight weeks, 20 senior members have been regularly reporting in person to work downtown at the James R. Thompson Center. The employees have used safety protocols such as daily temperature checks, wearing face coverings and social distancing.

Those staffers were also not frequenting stores and were being told to only go home and back to the Thompson Center. The senior staffers met at least once a day collectively, and during those meetings they wore face coverings, including the governor, according to Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh.

When it was time to eat, staffers ate individually packaged food, she said. The senior staffers worked at the Thompson Center from about 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to varying degrees. Abudayyeh said the staffer who tested positive has not been present at Pritzker’s news conferences.

Now, Pritzker will be livestreaming his 2:30 p.m. COVID-19 briefings from his Chicago home, and without any staffers present to help, Abudayyeh said. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, will also join via a video chat. And a print and broadcast reporter will also be added to the line.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Public Health Department, speaks during the daily briefing Monday. 
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Public Health Department, speaks during the daily briefing Monday.
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The governor’s office is also undergoing a deep cleaning, and staffers are being monitored for symptoms.

“The governor and staff will return to the office when IDPH deems appropriate,” the governor’s office said, referring to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

COVID-19 has also impacted the White House and some of its staffers. Katie Miller, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, on Friday was removed from Air Force One after testing positive. Miller is married to Stephen Miller, a top adviser to President Donald Trump.

The Washington Post featured a photo of Katie Miller speaking to reporters Thursday outside a nursing home in Alexandra, Virginia. Katie Miller was not wearing a face covering. Four reporters surrounding her were.

The White House last week also confirmed one of Trump’s personal valets has tested positive for coronavirus.