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Sheriff’s office suspends in-person visits at Cook County Jail

The suspension is effective Monday, the sheriff’s office announced, citing the rising case numbers as well as the stay-at-home advisory issued Thursday for Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart talks to Connie Mennella, chairperson of the Department of Correctional Health at Cermak Health Services, after a press conference where they appealed to the community to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 outside Cook County Department of Corrections Division 11, Thursday morning, Nov. 12, 2020.
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart talks to Connie Mennella, chairperson of the Department of Correctional Health at Cermak Health Services, after a press conference where they appealed to the community to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 outside Cook County Department of Corrections Division 11, Thursday morning, Nov. 12, 2020.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Cook County sheriff’s office announced Sunday it will be suspending in-person visits at the Cook County Jail in hopes of warding off another coronavirus outbreak as cases rise across the county.

The suspension is effective Monday, the sheriff’s office announced, citing the rising case numbers as well as the stay-at-home advisory issued Thursday for Chicago and suburban Cook County.

“For months, detainees were able to safely meet with family and friends,” the sheriff’s office said, referring to the reinstitution of in-person visits in June after a shutdown during the virus’ initial spread. “Like detainees, the people who visit them come from the community, where current test positivity rates for Chicago and Cook County are at 15.6% and 15.2% respectively.”

At a news conference Thursday, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart implored people to take coronavirus precautions seriously, saying that an outbreak in the community could eventually enter the jail.

The sheriff’s office reported Thursday that 91 detainees and 63 staff members at the jail were currently positive for COVID-19. The testing positivity rate at the jail was between 1% and 2%, Dart said, well below that of the public.

As of Sunday, 133,874 Chicagoans had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with 117,227 residents of suburban Cook County, according to Chicago Sun-Times data.

The jail will continue to provide video visitation to detainees, the sheriff’s office said, and will reinstitute in-person visitation as “soon as it is safe to do so.”