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134 inmates at Cook County Jail confirmed positive for COVID-19

The triple-digit spread happened within a week. The first two cases of COVID-19 were announced March 23.

A man who escaped from Cook County Jail May 2, 2020, is in custody, authorities said Monday.
The Cook County sheriff’s office announced 33 new COVID-19 cases among inmates March 30, 2020, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 134.
Sun-Times file photo

The Cook County sheriff’s office announced Monday that 33 more inmates at the Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of confirmed cases among detainees to 134.

The triple-digit spread happened within a week. The first two cases of COVID-19 were announced March 23. One of the two men diagnosed, a 42-year-old Albany Park resident serving out a 90-day sentence for an aggravated DUI, said the environment inside the jail “was like Disneyland for coronavirus.”

He was released last week and is now self-quarantining at home.

“I didn’t bring it in,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Once it’s in, it’s going to go crazy.”

Nine detainees have tested negative, and 20 staff members have also tested positive, the sheriff’s office said.

The jail has already released at least 400 detainees over the last week, as Cook County judges conduct case-by-case bond reviews in an attempt to lower the jail’s population and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The releases dropped the Cook County Jail population to its lowest level in decades — down to 5,003 Friday, a decrease of 400 or so detainees from Monday, when Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. ordered case-by-case bond reassessments of those charged with mostly non-violent offenses.

Last Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker also issued an executive order halting the transfer of new prisoners to the Illinois Department of Corrections amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Illinois state prisons had already suspended visits to prevent the spread of the virus among guards and inmates.