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Chicago Public Schools now counts 85 COVID-19 cases among employees, vendors


Stacey Rupolo

Eighty-five Chicago Public Schools staff members, service vendors, or charter school staff have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Monday, according to the district. Two have died. 

The district did not release the names of the employees who had died, but said none were actively working at school buildings when they tested positive. 

Chicago reached a somber milestone on Sunday with its death toll reaching 1,000. COVID-19 has disproportionately hit communities of color in Chicago, with 70% of deaths African-American, who make up only 23% of Chicago’s population. 

Of the positive cases, 38 employees had worked at a school providing free meals or loaner devices to the public. Those cases were considered “actionable,” meaning that the positive result required the district to pause operations at those campuses.

One of those campuses is Parker Community Academy in Englewood, according to  CBS2. Last week, the district shut down food distribution at the school after a worker tested positive for the virus. 

 The majority of cases occurred in staff who are working remotely and had not been to school buildings recently. The actual case count is likely higher, because these numbers include only self-reported cases.  

“With widespread community transmission in Chicago, the district’s No. 1 priority has been keeping staff safe and healthy and our thoughts are with all members of the CPS community who have been impacted by this virus,” district spokesperson Emily Bolton said in a statement. 

Chicago school campuses closed on March 17 as part of a statewide school order issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Illinois school buildings are closed for the rest of the school year, and the governor has raised the possibility that schools may not reopen for in-person learning in the fall, depending on the state of the pandemic. 

Chicago Public Schools employs 38,000 people and also hires contract workers for cleaning and food operations. Despite the closures, the district has kept open hundreds of schools for meal distribution, and employees and others have been handing out loaner tech devices to families since mid-April. As of Friday, Chicago had distributed 102,000 devices, according to officials. 

From March 31, Chicago Public Schools stopped notifying school communities if a staff member or student tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The district has posted signs on doors of food distribution sites if it closes them.

Front-line workers at Chicago school buildings who assist in dispensing food aid or computer devices have complained about a lack of protective equipment and signage to enforce social distancing. Exempt from stay-at-home orders, those workers meet the public daily. 

Principals and administrators who are working at schools have also said they have not received sufficient protective gear

Last week, City Hall reported 700 COVID-19 cases among city workers, with the highest percentage of cases reported among front-line police and fire personnel. School employees were not included in that count and have not been as closely scrutinized as in other cities; New York has reported 72 educators have died of the disease.

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