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New House Speaker Welch’s chief of staff tests positive for the coronavirus

“I am a confirmed positive,” Jessica Basham said in a statement Friday morning.

Lawmakers and staff talk in the Illinois House during the lame-duck session at the Bank of Springfield Center on Jan. 13.
Lawmakers and staff talk in the Illinois House during a lame duck session at the Bank of Springfield Center on Wednesday.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

SPRINGFIELD — A day after positive COVID-19 tests were reported among people at both the state Capitol Complex and the convention center where the Illinois House met this week, the chief of staff to newly elected House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch announced Friday that she has coronavirus and is quarantining.

“I am a confirmed positive,” Jessica Basham said in a statement Friday morning. “I have been tested daily, and yesterday I received notice that my rapid test was positive. I have been made aware of two other confirmed positives, and my PCR results came back, confirming my own positive.”

The announcement came a day after the state Legislature wrapped up a weeklong lame-duck session and two session days of the newly elected General Assembly.

Welch became the first African American to serve as House speaker when he was sworn in Wednesday to succeed longtime Speaker Mike Madigan.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for the speaker’s office, said Welch tested negative for the coronavirus on Thursday but will still self-quarantine.

Newly elected House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch takes the oath of office at the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center in January.
Newly elected House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch takes the oath of office at the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center on Wednesday.
Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP file

Welch had tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of November. Those who recover from COVID-19 do not need to test or self-quarantine within three months of recovery if they show no symptoms, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Basham is the third person involved in the legislative sessions to test positive for COVID-19 this week. Basham was at the Bank of Springfield Center, where House members met to allow for social distancing. The identity of the other person who tested positive for the virus at the convention center was not released.

In her Friday statement, Basham said she started “to show mild symptoms yesterday evening, and I’m currently quarantining at home.”

Basham said she would quarantine for 14 days and recommended others who had been at the Bank of Springfield Center or the Capitol Complex, where the state Senate convened, to do the same.

The third person to test positive for COVID-19 was as the Capitol Complex, which includes the Capitol itself — where the state Senate met – as well as other state buildings.

John Patterson, spokesman for state Senate President Don Harmon, announced the positive test at the Capitol Complex.

Contact tracing had been concluded, and the unidentified infected person is believed to have had “minimal contact with others working at the Capitol Complex,” and no “close contact” with Senate members and staff, Patterson said.

“We have been told the affected person was not on or near the Senate floor for inauguration” of newly elected members, Patterson said.

The individual who tested positive at the Capitol Complex first contacted a “member of Senate GOP senior staff to inform them that they had received a rapid COVID-19 positive test in the capitol on Thursday, January 14,” said Whitney Barnes, spokeswoman for state Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie.

“Leader McConchie was tested again last night, is feeling fine and waiting for his results. Out of an abundance of caution, he is self-isolating and will be following all [Illinois Department of Public Health] recommendations,” she said.

Public health officials say anyone who is exposed to the virus should quarantine for 10 to 14 days if they have not been tested. That period can be shorter if they receive a negative test result during the quarantine, but how much shorter depends on when they are tested in relation to the potential exposure.