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

Because the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers surged so tremendously and for so long during fall, winter and early spring –and remained somewhat high– this historic public health crisis grew to an extent never before seen in our region and country. From mid-May through June, COVID-19 numbers in Chicago and Cook County went down well enough that Governor Pritzker moved Illinois into the full Phase 5 reopening. That was very good progress – thanks substantially to vaccinations.

But that was then and this is now: COVID-19 cases are again rising quickly. We were never anywhere near the final word on this virus, and currently the Delta variant is spreading faster and with an ease not seen in the original coronavirus. And so, with case numbers up very much, Cook County and other counties nearby are now declared to have “substantial community transmission” and masks are again recommended –even for vaccinated people– indoors at public places.

Following past progress, key numbers in our area usually went up, and that disturbing pattern is happening again. State case numbers have jumped 46% in the past week and hospitalizations are up 35%. These increases are virtually all among unvaccinated people. So, getting vaccinated remains of tremendous importance, as is continued mask-wearing if not vaccinated (we urge all to get vaccinated). The fact that numbers in Chicago and Illinois are again rising so substantially is something which the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) will monitor and continue to report on within this page.

As officials and healthcare professionals at the national level, in the State of Illinois and our county address the virus which is still very present and now has strong variants, CCSO 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 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.

Vaccines work. And they are safe. It has also been proven that face masks for unvaccinated people, social distancing, washing hands/hygienic care and other measures listed below help in the battle against COVID-19 which, again, is not over. That’s why such careful behavior remains critical in effectively fighting the virus. Meanwhile, extensive testing continues (now more than 26.82 million tests in Illinois) as Cook County and Illinois seek to minimize the increase in cases and avoid greater reversals in our progress. Medical experts had long cautioned about another surge of new cases; vaccination will determine how much this current increase grows. The major cause of increases is, simply, the failure of people to get vaccinated and unvaccinated people not following basic precautions such as wearing a mask and not attending large indoor gatherings.

Illinois, with a population of approximately 12.7 million, has 1,419,611 cases of people who have or previously had virus. Sadly, COVID-19 has taken 23,440 lives in our state, including 10,566 and holding in Chicago/Cook County. For most of November-December, Illinois totaled more new cases than any other state. The number of deaths reported in November-December were 260% higher than those in October; the 238 new deaths reported for one day in December 2nd were Illinois’ most ever in a single day. An average of 150 deaths were reported daily for 12 straight days in December and the daily average during mid-January was still high at 101. After that, the daily figure in this category went down very well but then stalled for months. Only in June did the average fall to well under 20, with half the days then and all but one day since being in single digits. For the first time in 476 days, no Illinois deaths were reported July 6th.

The COVID history in Illinois is easy to track in stark numbers. After great improvement for much of last summer, daily new case totals shot up in Fall 2020 – including days often as high as 11,000 to 15,400. Daily numbers then declined, averaging 5,207 in January; 2,393 in February; 1,868 in March and 3,015 in April (62% higher). The average went back down to 1,520 in May and only 332 in June, the lowest since widespread testing began. However, July is up tremendously, averaging 929 new cases per day, a rapid 189% increase (as of 7/30). In the past week, daily totals have included 1,691 – 1,993 – 2,082 and 2,348 – the most since early May. We must stop such higher numbers; again, vaccination is the key.

Most important are the rates of positive coronavirus test results, measured in seven-day periods. The history of the Illinois rate: It steadily dropped in May, June and most of July 2020 but relentlessly went up after that. It consistently increased following Christmas and was 8.3 %- 8.6% in early January. Steady declines then began and February/March 2021 produced an all-time low of 2.1%. But the positivity rate again rose very significantly to 4.2% and more by mid-April, a huge net increase of 100% in a month. The rate decreased to 0.6% in late June but is back up tremendously to 4.0% and holding – the highest in over three months and more than six times that rate of a month ago (last update July 30th). Vaccination had the expected huge impact but growth via the Delta variant has outpaced shots-in-arms and driven percentages up significantly. More vaccination and renewed caution are needed.

The City of Chicago rate shot up in October/November, reaching as high as [new method] 16%. After holding at well above 10% in early-to-mid-January, it was 2.8% in mid-March, its lowest ever. The rate then more than doubled to 5.8% by mid-April before dropping steadily and reaching a remarkably low 0.5% in early July. But it has since skyrocketed six-fold to 3.0% (last City update 7/30). Cook County, overall, was as high as [new method] 16.5% in November. After dropping, it rose again in mid-April to 6.1%. After falling and holding at 0.7% from June into July (the County’s lowest ever), it then now shot up by quadrupling to 2.8% in only three weeks (holding as of the last County update on 7/30). [NOTE: Illinois rates shown are by the standard method used since March 2020; Chicago and Cook County rates are by new-method calculation.]

As fall 2020 progressed, public officials continually warned that the increase in positivity rates put Cook County and the state at a crossroads. The numbers then relentlessly grew worse. Weekly totals of new cases in Illinois were the highest ever and routinely saw huge increases including 61,331 and 85,629 in November-December. Numbers from January to late April were as low as 10,996 and as high as 23,138. After late April, weekly totals declined tremendously, including approximately 1,597 in mid-June, the lowest since widespread testing began. But since then, all weeks have been much higher: including 4,449 – 7,983 and 11,682 (this past week). That is an increase of more than 700% in slightly over a month. Again, virtually all cases are in unvaccinated people.

More history on the pattern of Illinois’ weekly totals of new cases: They had also dropped for six straight weeks in May-June 2020, a record then better than any other highly-populated state. However, amid greater testing, a more open society and inadequate precautions by the public, these weekly totals later exceeded the previous week’s total six times in a row and in 22 of 30 weeks into January 2021, with most weeks setting new records. So, again, lower numbers were encouraging – but the substantial increases which followed all those previous stretches of weekly declines showed how easily things can always worsen if people do not get vaccinated and follow precautions. To repeat: We are again seeing significant increases.

The daily number of COVID-19 hospital patients went down by more than half after May 2020; total patients in ICU and on ventilators also dropped substantially. But in October-November, all these numbers were much greater than at any time in four-plus months. Hospitalizations tripled in Chicago and more than quadrupled statewide to an all-time Illinois high. ICU patients more than quadrupled and ventilator use more than tripled.

February and early March of this year saw Illinois hospitalization, ICU COVID-19 patient and ventilator numbers steadily go down again to their then-lowest levels ever. But mid-March to mid-May followed with steady, disturbing, very large increases – as much as 162% (hospitalizations), 130% (ICU) and 167% (COVID patients on ventilators). These daily totals and percentages of increase then steadily dropped to their lowest numbers since the state started tracking them. However, they are again on the rise. Not only are Illinois hospital cases up 35% since last week, ventilator use is up 41%. To return to progress, we must get vaccinated, not be careless and still follow the steps laid out by medical professionals.

This virus can always be transmitted by unvaccinated people and still, occasionally, by those who are vaccinated, though they usually have no symptoms. The reopening of society could never change that; only vaccination improves the situation. To help citizens stay safe, it is imperative for all to follow local requirements and the recommendations of the State of Illinois. It is also key to be aware of recommendations of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccination acceptance has still not reached levels necessary for “herd immunity.” That will take much more acceptance by the general public. Simply put, there is still a way to go. So, the best approach is to get vaccinated AND avoid being exposed to this virus. As a common-sense reminder, CDC always recommends everyday actions to help prevent the spread of any respiratory disease such as COVID-19. Those actions include:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Wear a face mask –even if vaccinated– when indoors in a public place (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
  • Face masks should be worn by everyone (even if vaccinated) at all times when indoors and others are present, and by every non-vaccinated person outside if in close crowding when social distancing is not possible. Simply put, this helps prevent the spread of COVID-19; if not vaccinated, masks protect yourself and other non-vaccinated people from this virus. The use of face masks remains crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility). We’ll say it again: Masks are highly important for all non-vaccinated people at times described earlier here.
  • 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. Handwashing is always a basic preventive measure, regardless of vaccination, against many potential health issues.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

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

Cook County Statement on Change in CDC Status to “Substantial”
July 29, 2021
The Cook County Department of Public Health releases the following statement, attributable to Dr. Rachel Rubin, Co-Lead and Senior Medical Officer of CCDPH.
“Today, the CDC changed the classification for Cook County indicating that there is “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19 in the County. As such, the CDC recommends that all fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings.
We strongly recommend that everyone follow the CDC recommendations and we will be issuing a new masking guidance tomorrow. The Delta variant is the strongest version of COVID-19 yet and we must contain it through both vaccinations and prevention measures such as mask wearing indoors and in crowded outdoor settings.
Until we reach a higher vaccination rate in the County, we must continue following sensible mitigation practices, particularly when cases are rising. Masking, vaccination and physical distancing are imperative. We will need the cooperation of all residents, employers, venue operators and officials to keep our communities safe.”

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 not vaccinated and are determined to be at risk of exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As more information has become available about COVID-19, the CDC, Chicago, Cook County and State of Illinois have updated guidance for all, including those who are not vaccinated. Non-vaccinated travelers’ self-isolation and limiting of activities after returning is also detailed. For 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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