‘Solitary confinement in my bedroom’: Illinois attorney general describes his COVID-19 symptoms
Kwame Raoul says it started with sweating, shivering, teeth-chattering and feet that felt like they were on fire. Then, a cough that wouldn’t quit and a sore throat that was “out of this world.” His fever reached 101.4 degrees.
It started late Saturday night with sweating, shivering, teeth-chattering and feet that felt like they were on fire. That was followed by a cough that wouldn’t quit and a sore throat Kwame Raoul described as “out of this world.”
Raoul, Illinois attorney general, said Thursday he’s now “in solitary confinement in my bedroom” as the highest-ranking Illinois politician known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
He’s feeling “a little bit better” since he was tested late Monday. The results came Tuesday morning. His fever, which spiked at 101.4 degrees, has come down. But after a “meeting or two” on Zoom, he feels “exhausted afterwards, as if I played a football game.”
“I tire very easily. But overall, I have not had any breathing difficulties, which is a plus because I’ve heard of others having such breathing difficulties. Just feeling beat down, though,” he said.
“I’m in solitary confinement in my bedroom. It’s been a few days. It’s not fun. … My wife will bring in a tray. I’ll send a text: ‘Can I try some fruit?’ I feel guilty because I feel like I’m ordering room service or something.”
Raoul’s wife is an anesthesiologist who has treated severely ill COVID-19 patients. She has tested negative for the coronavirus. Two step-children, ages 19 and 22, who live with the attorney general and his wife, are still awaiting their test results. So are two other adult children, who live with his ex-wife.
Raoul has been in his Chicago office over the last couple of weeks. But the vast majority of his meetings have been virtual, over Zoom or Skype.
The rare exception came June 6, when he attended a South Suburban Day of Action event in Calumet City to protest the death of George Floyd and demand equitable resources for long-neglected African-American neighborhoods. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and members of the Legislative Black Caucus were there.
They all wore masks, but took them off when they were speaking at the podium.
After receiving his own test results, Raoul said he called the governor and started reaching out to everyone else he could remember having come in contact with in recent days — his own form of contact tracing.
“It’s the responsible thing to do,” he said.
The attorney general said he has no idea where he might have contracted the virus. He noted having “stopped by to support a couple of restaurants” in recent weeks. But, he refused to identify them for fear of discouraging sorely-needed business at a time when restaurants are fighting for survival and have reopened to outdoor dining.
“I already feel that there’s like a black mark on me. Once I get out of my solitary confinement, people will be like, `Uh. This guy was COVID-infected,’” said Raoul, who plans to remain in isolation for at least another two weeks.
Earlier this week, Raoul used his Facebook page to sound the alarm about the continued threat from COVID-19. He warned: “It’s real! I am witness. We may have moved to Phase Three. But, nobody is out of reach! Continue to take this seriously.”
On Thursday, he sounded the alarm even louder when asked about the federal lawsuit filed by the Illinois Republican Party accusing Pritzker of allowing religious groups and protesters to meet in large groups during his disaster declaration, but denying the same constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms to political groups.
“I’ve been in the business of defending various lawsuits against the governor and the state for the implementation of his executive orders and I will continue to vigorously do so — even more so now than before given that I’m witness to fact that COVID-19 remains a threat,” Raoul said.
“The Republican Party may want to pretend like it doesn’t exist. Well, I can tell you from my shivers at night to my teeth rattling and my sweating that COVID-19 is alive and wellin the state of Illinois. We need to take precautions. And I’m gonna defend the governor’s efforts to try to protect the citizens of the state of Illinois.”
With the shades open in his bedroom, Raoul says he can see people walking by on a beautiful summer day — without face masks.
“We can get relaxed. We’re well into Phase Three. There’s anticipation of moving into Phase Four. … The governor and the mayor have managed all this well and reduced our numbers,” he said.
“That said, there is a certain complacency we can get as a result of seeing the relative results of numbers as compared to other states that opened up before us. That could lead to a future spike if we don’t play it right.”