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There are 384,000 people in Illinois who are deaf or have severe hearing loss.

For many, their focus during the state’s daily updates on the spread of COVID-19 isn’t on the governor. Instead, they’re looking to his side and the man who is interpreting the avalanche of information just for them.

Michael Albert has become a familiar face during the daily briefings. But it’s his hands he’d rather you focus on.

“I’ve been working very hard to provide a message that’s accurate and clear,” he said. “And hopefully I’ve done that to the best of my ability.”

Albert didn’t set out to be a sign language interpreter. He has no one in his family with hearing loss.

But after taking a sign language class in college and then had a roommate who was deaf, it sparked an interest, a passion and eventually a career.

Typically, he signs for the Chicago Hearing Society, interpreting for the medical community, churches, theater groups, weddings and funerals.

Albert admits signing in front of the entire state while next to the governor during a moment of crisis can be difficult.

“It’s something I never thought I’d experience,” he said.

He said he’s seen the social media comments praising his work and said it’s humbling. But the focus should remain on the message and those who need him most.

“The goal of this work is only focused on the deaf community and making sure they are able to get accurate information from government and medical officials and that it’s conveyed accurately and clearly,” he said.