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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 and winter –and remain somewhat high– this historic public health crisis has grown to an extent never before seen in our region and country. Now, various COVID-19 numbers in Chicago and Cook County continue to decline; our area and all other measurement regions have advanced to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois COVID-19 reopening plan. This is good progress, though it means only that overall numbers are back to levels of last summer, so continued mask-wearing and other precautions are necessary – even as vaccinations continue.

As officials and healthcare professionals at the national level, in the State of Illinois and our county address the virus and issue daily updates, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (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.

It has been proven that face masks, social distancing, washing hands/ hygienic care and other measures listed below help in the battle against COVID-19. That’s why such careful behavior remains critical in effectively fighting the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the rate of positive tests and the number of those diagnosed with this virus grow, as shown in extensive testing (now just slightly less than 18 million tests in Illinois). The major cause of increases is, simply, the failure of people to follow basic precautions such as wearing a mask and not attending large gatherings, especially indoors.

Illinois, with a population of approximately 12.7 million, has 1,183,667 cases of people who have or previously had virus. Sadly, COVID-19 has taken 20,460 lives in our state, including 3,995 in Cook County. For most of November-December, Illinois had 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 date in December 2nd were Illinois’ most ever in a single day. An average of 150 deaths were reported daily for 12 straight days through December 19th, also the most ever (for such a period). The daily average reported Monday – Saturday, January 11-16, was still high at 101. Fortunately, daily figures have gone down very well since then – and that must continue.

A long-running and disturbing pattern emerged in the daily totals of new COVID-19 cases. For June and part of July, there were fewer than 1,000 new cases per day in Illinois. But these figures then rose steadily and shot up through October and November, bringing new records for highest individual daily totals; they more than quadrupled after October 1st. Record state numbers in November-December included daily new case totals of more than 11,000 to more than 15,400 on many days. Daily figures have been below 10,000 for more than two months and have finally improved to under 5,000 for three-plus weeks now. Including earlier high daily totals and recent solid declines, the average number of new cases per day over more than four months continues to drop and stands at 6,294. Overall increases must be beaten back even more; every effort is needed from the public for our county and state to return to consistently reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Most important are the rates of positive coronavirus test results measured in seven-day periods. They steadily dropped in May, June and most of July but relentlessly went up after that. In the fall and this winter, Illinois’ numbers were very aggressive, as rates nearly quadrupled after October 1st. The record:

Much of June/July: 2.0% to 2.9%, August: 4.0% to 4.4%, most of September: 3.5% to 3.9%, October (first two weeks): 3.5% to 4.9%, October (final two weeks): 5.1% to 7.5% and much of November: 8.0% to 13.2%. After ups and downs, the Illinois rate consistently ticked up substantially following Christmas and was 8.3 %- 8.6% in early January. But it has since declined very consistently and is now 2.5% and holding. That is part of a major drop to the state’s lowest percentages since early last July, and these low rates have continued for nearly two weeks. The Chicago rate shot up in October-November reaching as high as [new method] 16% and fluctuated for weeks before again rising considerably. After holding at well above 10 percent a month ago, it continues to trend much better and is currently 3.0% and holding, its lowest ever (last City update 2/25). Cook County overall was as high as [new method] 16.5% in November before steadily declining to its new low of 3.9% and holding (last County update 2/26). [NOTE: Illinois rates shown are by the standard method used since March; Chicago and Cook County rates are by new-method calculation.]

As fall 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 and we were for too long on the wrong side of that critical point during this winter. Weekly totals of new cases in Illinois were the highest ever here and routinely saw huge increases including: 51,466-61,331-85,629 in November/December. Weekly totals after Christmas of 41,912-48,929-40,079 showed we had not truly turned a corner. Finally, weekly totals have gone down for six straight weeks including last week’s figure of 12,255 which is the lowest such number since last August.

For more perspective on the pattern of 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 exceeded the previous week’s total six times in a row and in 22 of 30 weeks into January, with most weeks setting new records. So, again, the recent declines are quite encouraging.

The daily number of COVID-19 hospital patients went down by more than half after May; total patients in ICU and on ventilators also dropped substantially. 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.

Hospitalizations, ICU COVID-19 patients and ventilator numbers are finally back to their lower levels of more than five months ago. But to better reverse this public health crisis and return to the consistently solid overall progress of last summer, we must be far more vigilant and follow the simple steps outlined below to greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The “opening” of various aspects of society does NOT mean people are less capable of spreading this virus or its new, more transmissible variations.

The continuing surge in new cases led to the return of many more preventive measures by Governor Pritzker and officials of Chicago and other municipalities in Cook County. Now, with many of those measures again lightened, please be sure you know current policies. To help citizens stay safe, it is imperative for all to follow them and the recommendations of the State of Illinois and all local requirements. It is also key to be aware of recommendations of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The continued and greater distribution of two vaccines is good news, for sure. However, any vaccination requires more months to reach mass distribution to the general public. Simply put, there is still a long way to go. So, the best approach is to 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:

  • 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

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, Chicago, Cook County and State of Illinois have updated guidance for all travelers to self-isolate and limit activities after returning. Remember, this applies even if you show no 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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