CHICAGO (CBS) — On Wednesday, two more city employees died of COVID-19 complications.
It was a Chicago firefighter and a water department plumber.
Now, other city workers are telling CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini they fear for their own safety.
All of the workers CBS 2 spoke to work at a building on the southwest side. They said the city failed to protect them after other workers got the coronavirus.
Steven Ivy, a city of Chicago laborer, is talking about the loss of Dave Veloz, a city of Chicago foreman for machinists. Veloz died last week after battling COVID-19.
His desk now sits empty on the fourth floor of a massive city office building on Pershing Road.
“No one should be in that building, especially if the virus is in that building,” Ivy said. “We already lost a coworker. No one should be in that building. They still haven’t shut the building down. They still have people coming in there and swiping in.”
Ivy is angry and said city leaders failed to protect its workers from the virus spreading on the fourth floor.
CBS 2 Investigators obtained photos inside and internal documents exposing at least five workers testing positive in less than two weeks. Sources said more are in quarantine or being tested.
Ivy said he fears for his life.
“The fourth floor is a hot spot,” he said.
Sources said the fourth floor security office is where the first coronavirus case occurred at the Pershing Road building. It was announced on March 29 by Commissioner David Reynolds. He oversees what’s called AIS: Assets, Information and Services.
It includes all the trade workers in the building including machinists, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and laborers like Ivy.
“So this department is just jeopardizing our lives across the board,” Ivy said.
Days before the first case, an internal e-mail by the director of facilities management, Nina Cozzo, showed foreman were ordered to continue working in the fourth floor room. At least 12 to 15 foreman in one room according to this e-mail, from one union that fought to have the workers separated.
They won, but it was too late. At least two people working there became sick.
One was Dave Veloz.
“He died from the complications of the coronavirus yes,” Ivey said. “So when I heard the news, it got real emotional.”
Just days after Veloz was diagnosed, Ivy was told to move a motor with a coworker. It was heavy and the two had to get close to lift it. Later, Ivy learned the other worker may have been exposed to Veloz before Veloz went home sick.
“Nobody from management told me! I had a right to know that,” Ivy said.
After Dave Veloz was diagnosed, Commissioner Reynolds sent out an email which some city workers and the union took offense to.
Reynolds wrote “I’ve been preaching…recommendations to help control the spread of the COVID-19 virus” and “it’s pretty clear based on recent positive COVID-19 tests not everyone is following these..”
A union leader then sent e-mails to the mayor’s office, accusing the commissioner of “belittling” Veloz and not handling the crisis correctly, asking “how many people have to die or get sick before Commissioner Reynolds is held accountable?”
Ivy and other city tradesman said the city also is failing to follow its own guidelines involving essential work being the only work that should be done.
CBS 2 Investigators obtained work orders showing multiple workers assigned to pick up trash around the Pershing Building. Others were ordered to move electrical material to storeroom shelves. Other tradesmen CBS 2 talked to off-camera said they are frustrated about doing non-essential work.
“How is painting a wall, painting a building an essential function during a medical crisis like this, when we have the mayor telling you stay at home, stay at home,” Ivy asked.
There are CDC signs at the building, warning workers to stay six feet apart and to not congregate. But CBS 2 Investigators learned an investigation has been launched by Illinois OSHA for coronavirus-related health and safety concerns here.
One complaint: large groups congregating on the first floor. CBS 2 was told last week board of election workers were still gathering there.
So is it a lack of direction?
“It’s a lack of knowledgeable management” Ivy said.
Back up on four, there’s a Chicago Police Department storage facility. Internal records show at least two officers working there have tested positive in two weeks.
Ivy said he’s also worried about the children he is raising, including foster kids. And he also thinks about his friend and coworker Dave Veloz.
“They don’t care about me enough to protect me to prevent me from being Dave,” Ivy said. “And what’s going to happen to my kids? I signed on to raise these kids and if I pass, what’s going to happen to them?”
Steven Ivy said he quit his city job on Monday.
A city spokesperson said it is following all guidelines and that it deep cleaned and sanitized the building.