South Side man died of COVID-19 two weeks after serving as election judge: ‘Life is too short’

News that the first city worker known to have died from the coronavirus was also an election judge reignited the debate about whether Illinois should have held the primary election.

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Revall Burke, 60, a city employee, died April 1 of COVID-19, 15 days after working as an election judge at a 17th Ward polling place.

Revall Burke, 60, a city employee, died April 1 of COVID-19, 15 days after working as an election judge at a 17th Ward polling place.

From Facebook

A 17th Ward election judge died from COVID-19 just 15 days after he worked a South Side polling place on Election Day.

Revall Burke, 60, a city parking enforcement aide who lived in the 7600 block of South Morgan, died April 1.

On March 17, Burke was assigned to the polling place at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 1460 W. 78th St.

Burke was the first city employee known to have died from the coronavirus, but his name was not made public when Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the death on April 1.

Revall Burke, 60, a city parking enforcement aide and election judge, died April 1, 15 days after working as an election judge.

Revall Burke, 60, a city parking enforcement aide and election judge, died April 1, 15 days after working as an election judge.

From Facebook.

His role as a polling place worker in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood was first reported Monday by Patch.com.

The news reignited the debate about whether Illinois should have proceeded with the primary election after the coronavirus outbreak had been identified as a global pandemic.

At his daily news briefing, Gov. J.B. Pritzker again defended the decision to go forward with the election, saying he had no legal authority under the Illinois Constitution to do otherwise.

“So, I couldn’t shut it down,” Pritzker said, noting he had instead encouraged voters to vote early and vote by mail.

“We were encouraging people not to go to the polls if they could avoid going to the polls, and indeed I think that’s exactly the same, that we need to do even more so when we get to the general election,” the governor said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at the daily update on the coronavirus situation in Illinois on March 19, 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at the daily update on the coronavirus situation in Illinois on March 19, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

He also pointed out the election was held four days before he issued a stay-at-home order, making Illinois the second state in the nation to take that extreme step.

Pritzker’s administration announced Monday that an additional 1,173 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Illinois along with 74 more deaths. That brings the statewide total to 22,025 cases and 794 deaths.

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said the board is sending letters to all voters and other election workers who may have come in contact with Burke at the polling place to inform them they may have been exposed.

Allen said it is the fourth letter sent from the board in the aftermath of the election warning of specific instances of possible COVID exposure because of a known confirmed case of someone who either worked or voted at a polling place.

A 28th Ward polling place on the West Side on Election Day.

A 28th Ward polling place on the West Side on Election Day.

Annie Costabile/Sun-Times file

The other letters involved the following polling places: Andrew Jackson Language Academy, 1340 W. Harrison, in the 28th Ward; Montclare Senior Residences, 1200 E. 78th St. in the 8th Ward; and William Dever School, 3436 N. Osceola, which hosted precincts from both the 29th and 38th Wards.

Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said this is the first report in Illinois of an election worker dying from the coronavirus.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s report of COVID-19 victims, Burke suffered from diabetes and hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Ald. David Moore (17th) said Burke’s family had asked him to not discuss his death.

Previously, the alderman posted photos of Burke on his Facebook page and described him as a “committed” 17th Ward precinct captain and 15-year city employee.

The alderman noted Burke wrote on his own Facebook introduction: “Life is too short stay Happy. I love being with family and friends. Bowling, shooting pool, road trip.”

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