Bureau of Prisons reports largest jump so far in coronavirus cases at the Chicago MCC

However, it’s unclear exactly how that agency is tabulating the number of coronavirus cases at the federal jail.

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A cross can be seen hanging in the window of a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, 71 W. Van Buren St., in the Loop, Wednesday afternoon, April 15, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Bureau of Prisons on Thursday reported its largest single-day jump by far in inmate coronavirus cases in Chicago’s downtown federal jail, disclosing that 48 of the more than 600 people being held there have tested positive for the virus.

That’s up from only seven positive tests among inmates at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center as of Wednesday, according to numbers released by the agency.

But it’s been unclear exactly how the Bureau of Prisons is tabulating the number of coronavirus cases at the MCC. Until Thursday, it had consistently reported lower numbers than officials on the ground, including prosecutors and defense attorneys. As of Wednesday, prosecutors had said that 33 inmates had already tested positive.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on the inconsistencies in the numbers at the MCC earlier this month. A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons said Monday that, “the number of open positive test cases only reflects current cases that have not been resolved.” On Thursday, a spokesperson pointed to “additional testing of asymptomatic inmates” when asked about the latest spike in numbers.

Two MCC inmates are hospitalized, according to the most recent information from federal prosecutors. They say the rest “are in isolation and have been since before being tested.”

The Bureau of Prisons also reported Thursday that 20 MCC staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus. Prosecutors said that number had actually risen to 25, as of Wednesday. They added, “the infected staff members either have not been at the MCC for the last several weeks or have had limited recent interaction with inmates.”

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