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The Coronavirus, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and You

As officials and healthcare professionals at the national level, in the State of Illinois and Cook County continue to address the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and issue daily updates, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office continues to work with those stakeholders. We also remain committed to regularly updating you with key information.

We are taking the best approach to the safety and security of Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) staff and everyone with whom we interact in the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC), at Cook County Courthouses and other public facilities and in our communities.

The numbers clearly show that face masks, social distancing, hygienic care and other measures listed below are helping in the battle against COVID-19. That’s why such careful behavior remains critical in effectively fighting the coronavirus. Meanwhile, as dramatically increased testing continues, the number of those diagnosed with this virus grows – as was expected to happen with a more open society and so much more testing (now more than 6.95 million tests in Illinois). If citizens fail to follow basic precautions everyone knows about such as wearing face masks and social distancing, that plays a major role in increases.

Illinois, with a population of nearly 13 million, has 355,217 people who now have or previously had the virus which, sadly, has taken 9,345 lives in our state. A now-long-running and disturbing pattern is that daily totals of new COVID-19 cases are consistently higher than on any date since the spring, including an average of more than 4,100 Thursday-Sunday of last week (the highest actual daily totals ever here). Daily new cases have averaged over or near 4,000 for seven consecutive days.

Importantly, Illinois’ rate of positive coronavirus test results [measured in seven-day periods] steadily dropped in May, June and most of July but then went UP very substantially. The long “low” period saw rates of 3% or, often, less through most of July. However, increases in positivity rates have continued unabated for three months – and counting. 

Through September 8th, the average rate in Illinois was over 4.2%, including as high as 4.5%. It remained at a concerning 3.3%-to-3.9% for the next month and then again grew worse. Recent much higher state levels include 5.1% to 5.7% (all are highest in four months) for the periods announced October 16-21. In contrast, the state rate in New York was under 1% for over a month in August/September. Meanwhile, the Chicago-only rate rose to 5.4% in September, dropped for a while but is now back at 5.4%. Cook County continues to increase even more considerably – now all the way up to 6.7%.

Throughout September, public officials continually pointed out that the increase in positivity rates put Chicago, Cook County and the state at a crossroads. Now, on the wrong side of that critical point, increases must be beaten back; the public has to make every effort to return to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Weekly totals of new cases in Illinois routinely see the biggest increases since late May; 24,898 last week and 17,609 the week before are the highest ever in Illinois. The state has had 1,000-plus new cases every day for 14 consecutive weeks, which hadn’t happened weekly since May.

For more perspective on Illinois’ weekly totals of new cases, please consider this: They had dropped for six straight weeks in May and June, a record better than any other highly-populated state. However, amid record testing, a more open society and inadequate precautions by the public, these weekly totals have exceeded the previous week’s total in 13 of the past 17 weeks.

The number of COVID-19 hospital patients went down by more than half after May; total patients in ICU and on ventilators also dropped substantially – but all those numbers are now trending up. In fact, daily hospitalizations are much higher than at any time since June. To reverse all increases and return to solid overall progress, we must remain vigilant and follow the simple steps outlined below to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The “opening” of various aspects of society does NOT mean people are less capable of spreading COVID-19.

It is imperative that all citizens follow current policies and recommendations of the State of Illinois and all local requirements to help citizens stay safe. Recent months have brought many changes announced by Governor Pritzker and officials of Chicago and other municipalities in Cook County. Please be sure you know what is covered and, specifically, how. It is also key to be aware of recommendations of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With no vaccine yet developed to prevent COVID-19, the best approach is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a common-sense reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Wear a face mask (more on face masks below in this list)
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Face masks should be worn by everyone indoors at all times when others are present and by everyone outside at all times when social distancing is not possible. Simply put, this helps prevent the spread of COVID-19; masks protect yourself and others from this virus. The use of face masks has long been crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility). Masks are now crucial for everyone.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – especially after using a bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website. If you have questions or concerns, as always, ask a doctor or health professional.

We also want to provide guidance to volunteers, vendors, visitors, and people who frequent the Sheriff’s Office. Our goal is to ensure the safety of our employees, the public, and detainees. Please read the following very carefully and follow the directions below as indicated.

Volunteers, vendors, visitors, and the public should contact their healthcare provider if they have:

  1. Returned from China, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, or any country with a CDC Travel Alert Level 3 in the last 14 days or
  2. Live with someone or have had close contact with a person under investigation (PUI) or
  3. Had close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 illness and
  4. Refrain from visiting the Sheriff’s Office if they are determined to be at risk of exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As more information has become available about COVID-19, the CDC has updated guidance for all travelers to self-isolate and limit activities for 14 days after travel from China, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, or any country with a CDC Travel Alert Level 3 in the last 14 days. This includes people who do not have symptoms of illness.   

For additional up-to-date information, please visit:

CDC Novel Coronavirushttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

CDC Travel Guidancehttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Illinois Department of Public Healthhttp://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus

Cook County Department of Public Healthhttps://www.cookcountypublichealth.org/communicable-diseases/novel-coronavirus/

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