By Ryan Ori – 3/11/2020
A worker in one of Chicago’s largest office complexes has tested positive for the new coronavirus, causing companies there and in nearby buildings to take measures to prevent the illness from spreading.
Tenants in Prudential Plaza and other buildings near Millennium Park have been told an employee at an unidentified company in the two-tower Prudential complex on Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19. Since being diagnosed, the worker has not returned to the property, according to building owner Sterling Bay.
The illness, the first confirmed case involving a large Chicago office property, adds to the challenge of containing an outbreak in Chicago, where some schools have closed and major gatherings such as upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parades have been called off.
Employers are responding with a range of preventive measures, including at least one company that is asking anyone who has been in Prudential Plaza recently to consider working from home for the next two weeks.
“We understand the Prudential building is a common lunch spot for employees working in the area, so please be aware of the situation and avoid the building until it is cleared,” employees of Crain Communications were told in an email Wednesday.
The company, whose publications include Crain’s Chicago Business, has its offices in the office tower at 150 N. Michigan Ave., just across Michigan Avenue from Prudential Plaza.
“If you were in the Prudential building recently, please be aware of your own personal health and speak with your manager about working from home for the next 14 days until the incubation period has expired,” the Crain Communications email said. “If you do not show symptoms during that 14-day period we’ll be happy to have you back in the office.”
Other employers are taking steps such as allowing or encouraging people to work from home.
A confirmed illness at Prudential Plaza is particularly troubling because of the property’s sheer size, at 2.3 million square feet, and its connection to other buildings via the Pedway. The underground walkway is used by thousands of office tenants connect to commuter trains, nearby lunch spots and other businesses.
The complex is along the north edge of Chicago’s biggest tourist destination, Millennium Park, meaning there is typically heavy foot traffic in the area.
“We take this situation extremely seriously,” Sterling Bay spokeswoman Julie Goudie said in an emailed statement. “As soon as we learned of the diagnosis, we immediately notified building tenants and advised anyone who feels ill to stay home and contact a health professional if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.
“We have been and will continue to aggressively clean One Two Pru in accordance with CDC and WHO protocol. The health and safety of our tenant community is our highest priority and we encourage all tenants to continue practicing good personal hygiene as we navigate this moment together.”
The Chicago Tribune is based in One Prudential Plaza, and employees are being given the option of working from home. In an email to employees Wednesday, Editor-in-Chief Colin McMahon told employees the newspaper “asked Prudential services to increase their cleaning regimen in and around our offices, and they have complied. We will continue to work closely with the building on precautions and next steps.”
Goudie said Sterling Bay’s increased cleaning efforts included “the additional measure of an electrostatic sprayer application of a virus-killing cleaning product on common area touchpoints.”
Tenants in the neighboring Aon Center, Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper, were told the ill Prudential employee does not use the shuttle buses that run between those buildings and commuter train stations on the western edge of the Loop.
“For the past two weeks, the Aon/Prudential shuttle implemented additional disinfectant measures on each shuttle,” said the email sent to Aon Center tenants.
Shuttle buses continue to operate on schedule, according to the email.
In an email, BOMA/Chicago, an association of 240 Chicago buildings, said it was providing its members with updates and guidelines and defers “to our best-in-class building owners and managers to implement the proper cleaning protocols and procedures to help ensure the continued safety of their building tenants.”