State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district encompasses a large part of Proviso Township, has tested positive for COVID-19.
During an interview on Nov. 29, Welch said he started feeling symptoms last Wednesday and tested positive on Saturday. He said he’s been quarantined in the basement of his Hillside home ever since then.
“We have a really small circle and we traced it back to a family member who tested positive a couple days before I did,” Welch said. “Our kids are around them every day and I pick my kids up every day.”
Welch said that, so far, his two children and wife have all tested negative. He added that his symptoms have so far been mild, but he understands that they could worsen.
“A lot of people say it gets worse in the second week,” Welch said. “I have high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, so I had been really trying to be extra cautious.”
Since September, Welch has chaired the powerful Special Investigating Committee that has been probing Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s suspected connections to a ComEd bribery scheme.
Welch said he intends to remain chairman of the committee while he recovers, adding that he’ll continue to do his legislative work remotely, which he said he’s been doing for the last several months anyway.
“I will try not to overdo it because the fatigue is real,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping and hoping all goes well.”
Welch said he hopes he’ll be out of quarantine by Dec. 14, when the committee plans to resume in-person meetings.
The state representative said that, despite the investigation, he’s confident that Madigan has enough votes in the Democratic Caucus to retain his speakership. Welch said Madigan plans to answer Democrats’ questions before they hold a vote for House Speaker.
“It’s my understanding that when we have our caucus, Speaker Madigan will stand up and answer members’ questions before we take a vote,” Welch said. “I imagine the Madigan I know will answer every question put before him, but I’m sure there will be a lot of questions.”
Welch also swatted away speculation that he could be among those in the running for the speakership if Madigan loses his powerful position.
“I’m extremely flattered that people will throw my name out in those conversations, but I think they’re premature,” Welch said. “Madigan is running for re-election as speaker and I’m not running against him. I fully expect the Speaker to be re-elected.”
Welch cautioned his constituents to remain vigilant against the virus.
“People need to take this virus very seriously,” Welch said. “This is a really serious virus. You think you’re doing everything right and you’re not. I thought we were doing everything right and clearly we weren’t. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance, but the safest thing you can do is stay at home. Had I stayed at home, I wouldn’t have COVID-19 right now.”
The state representative also took pains to distinguish COVID-19 from the flu or the common cold, insisting that they were different.
“This is definitely not the flu,” he said. “It’s definitely not a cold. This is something we’ve never seen before and people need to take it seriously.”