AUSTIN RE­VEALS SHE TESTED POS­I­TIVE FOR CORO­N­AVIRUS

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER

Chicago’s sec­ond-most-se­nior al­der­man has tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus — af­ter test­ing neg­a­tive at a dif­fer­ent hos­pi­tal on the same day.

Ald. Car­rie Austin (34th) tested pos­i­tive last month af­ter what sources de­scribed as a bleed­ing episode that ini­tially ap­peared to sig­nal com­pli­ca­tions from the surgery she had five years ago to re­pair a torn aorta that nearly killed her.

Sources said the 71-year-old Austin was taken by am­bu­lance to Lit­tle Com­pany of Mary Hos­pi­tal in Ev­er­green Park, where she tested neg­a­tive for COVID-19. She was then taken by am­bu­lance to North­west­ern Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal, where the orig­i­nal surgery to re­pair the torn aorta had been con­ducted.

There, Austin was tested again. This time, the test came back pos­i­tive, sources said. The vet­eran al­der­man, sec­ond in se­nior­ity only to in­dicted Ald. Ed­ward M. Burke (14th), was then trans­ferred to a floor at North­west­ern re­served for coro­n­avirus pa­tients in iso­la­tion.

She ap­par­ently re­mained there for a while and has missed the last two City Coun­cil meet­ings, both con­ducted on­line.

The source of the bleed­ing was not known.

Austin could not be reached for com­ment. It was not known whether she re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized or is re­cu­per­at­ing at home.

Though COVID-19 is com­monly as­so­ci­ated with se­vere res­pi­ra­tory symp­toms, coro­n­avirus pa­tients also can de­velop blood clots lead­ing to se­ri­ous block­ages such as deep vein throm­bo­sis, a pul­monary em­bolism and stroke.

Austin was bounced as Bud­get Com­mit­tee chair­man by Mayor Lori Light­foot only to be ap­peased with a con­so­la­tion prize — as chair­man of the newly cre­ated Com­mit­tee on Con­tract Over­sight and Eq­uity.

On Mon­day, Light­foot tweeted: “Keep­ing Al­der­man Car­rie Austin and the rest of her fam­ily in my pray­ers. Al­der­man Austin is a fighter and I’m hop­ing for her to have a swift re­cov­ery.”

In a let­ter posted last week to her Face­book page, Austin in­formed con­stituents she had be­come the high­est-rank­ing city of­fi­cial known to have tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus.

“Just want to drop a short health check up­date and let you know I’m do­ing well . ... For your in­for­ma­tion, I have been stricken by COVID-19 and cur­rently pro­gress­ing to­ward full re­cov­ery,” Austin wrote in a “Dear Res­i­dents & Neigh­bors” let­ter.

The let­ter makes no other men­tion of her lat­est health scare, ex­cept to ex­press her grat­i­tude to those “who have reached out to check up on my well-be­ing . ... Your acts of kind­ness were warmly ap­pre­ci­ated.”

Five years ago, Austin choked back tears as she talked in sur­pris­ing de­tail about the health cri­sis that nearly killed her. It was stun­ning in an era when HIPAA laws al­low pub­lic of­fi­cials to con­ceal the true na­ture of their health is­sues.

“I tore my aorta. I al­most wasn’t here. But I’m grate­ful that God al­lowed me to be here. I was in the hos­pi­tal 29 days. For the first two weeks, I was un­con­scious. I was in a coma. Blood pres­sure went up over 300. The bot­tom num­ber was 205. They couldn’t bring it down. But I’m grate­ful for the God that I serve be­cause I’m sit­ting here to­day,” Austin said on that day as her col­leagues ap­plauded.

ASHLEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES FILE

Ald. Car­rie Austin (34th) at a City Coun­cil meet­ing last year.

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