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Two Cook County Jail detainees test positive for coronavirus

One detainee was housed in same area where a corrections officer who tested positive for COVID-19 had been stationed.

A guard tower at the Cook County Jail.
Sheriff Tom Dart announced March 23, 2020, two Cook County Jail detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 after showing flu-like symptoms.
Sun-Times file photo

Two Cook County Jail detainees have been placed in isolation cells after testing positive for COVID-19, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Monday, marking the first confirmed cases inside the 5,427-person jail complex.

One of the detainees, who is 42, had been housed inside the same facility where a corrections officer who tested positive for coronavirus worked. The detainee had been at the jail since December on an aggravated DUI charge. The positive result of the corrections officer’s coronavirus test — the first confirmed case for a jail staff member — was announced Sunday.

The second detainee who tested positive is an 18-year-old who was taken into custody for aggravated discharge of a firearm in mid-February. He had been housed in Division IV at the jail when he developed flu-like symptoms.

Jail officials in recent weeks had taken a number of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus inside the jail — one of the largest correctional facilities in the nation.

Earlier Monday, Chief Criminal Courts Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. ordered the start of a review of thousands of criminal cases with the aim of releasing non-violent, low-level offenders from the jail.

Martin’s order came in response to a plea from Public Defender Amy Campanelli to release more than 1,000 detainees from the jail to prevent the spread of the virus, noting the rampant spread of the illness inside jails and prisons in Italy, China and at facilities across the U.S.

Martin asked defense attorneys and the state’s attorney’s office to review cases involving all detainees whose advanced age or underlying health conditions make them especially at risk for serious illness from coronavirus, as well as offenders charged with low-level, non-violent felonies and misdemeanors, who are serving out short sentences in the jail or who have committed technical violations of their bond or probation.

The correctional officer who tested positive is self-isolating at home. Officials from Cook County Health, which administers the jail’s Cermak hospital, did not immediately respond to questions from the Chicago Sun-Times about the number of detainees who have been tested for the virus, or how many have been isolated after showing symptoms.