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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. Now, COVID-19 numbers in Chicago and Cook County have continuously gone down so well that Governor Pritzker weeks ago moved Illinois into the more open “Bridge” period between Phases 4 and 5. Yesterday, June 11th (moved up from July), marked the full Phase 5 reopening of Chicago and Illinois.

This is very good progress –thanks substantially to vaccinations– but it means only that most daily and weekly numbers are back to levels of last summer. Following past progress, key numbers in our area usually again went up considerably, so getting vaccinated remains of tremendous importance, as is continued mask-wearing if not vaccinated (we urge all to get vaccinated). Precautions are necessary even as vaccinations increase.

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.

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 is not over. That’s why such careful behavior remains critical in effectively fighting the coronavirus. Meanwhile, extensive testing continues (now more than 25 million tests in Illinois) and Cook County and Illinois are again at a crossroads: Will progress resume or will upward trends lead to another spike? The major cause of increases is, simply, the failure of people to follow basic precautions such as wearing a mask if not vaccinated (again, vaccination is urged) and not attending large gatherings, especially indoors. Regardless of vaccination, some precautions remain necessary.

Illinois, with a population of approximately 12.7 million, has 1,387,029 cases of people who have or previously had virus. Sadly, COVID-19 has taken 23,035 lives in our state, including more than 10,785 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 day 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 January 11-16, was still high at 101. After that, daily figures in this particular category went down very well but then stalled and have been somewhat level for months now.

Throughout this pandemic, a disturbing pattern was set: Long periods of declines in COVID-19 case numbers and other measurements followed by major increases. For instance, after great improvement with fewer than 1,000 daily new case totals for much of last summer, they shot up in Fall 2020 and quadrupled – including days often as high as 11,000 to 15,400. New cases dropped to daily averages of 5,207 during most of January, 2,393 throughout February and 1,868 in March but were much higher in April at 3,015 ( a 62% increase). The average went back down in May and finished at 1,520. The past two-plus weeks have seen under 1,000 new cases each day; June is averaging only 488, the lowest since widespread testing began. Monday had an individual-day record low 244. But these totals must continually decline for our county and state to return to the full level of normalcy everyone seeks. 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 has now decreased over the past month-plus and is currently a very dramatically-improved 1.0% and holding, the lowest ever (last update June 11th). Vaccination is having the expected huge impact.

The City of Chicago rate shot up in October/November, reaching as high as [new method] 16%. After holding at well above 10 per cent in early-to-mid-January, it declined consistently and held for days at 2.8%, then its lowest ever. But the rate then more than doubled over a month-plus to 5.8% before starting a steady decline. It is now at 1.4% and holding, yet another all-time low (last City update 6/11). Cook County overall was as high as [new method] 16.5% in November before steadily declining to a new low of 3.5% in early March. But after that the County rate steadily increased all the way up to 6.1% in mid-April and held for a week, a 75% increase in about a month. It currently is holding at 1.6%, its lowest ever (last County update 6/11). [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 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 51,466 – 61,331 – 85,629 in November/December. Weekly totals after Christmas including 48,929 showed we had not truly turned a corner. Other such numbers from January to late April were as low as 10,996 and as high as 23,138. Since late April, weekly totals have declined tremendously – including the past four weeks of 11,301 – 9,240 – 6,157 – 3,580 (the lowest since widespread testing began). This week’s total will almost certainly be even lower.

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 are 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.

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 have now dropped dramatically; in fact, all are at their lowest numbers since the state started tracking them. But to return to the consistently solid overall progress of last summer, we must get vaccinated, not be careless and still follow the simple steps outlined below to more greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Unvaccinated people can still spread the virus and its new, more transmissible variants; the reopening of society does NOT change that.

Regardless of reopening, some locations may still require mask-wearing and limitations be kept in place for individual businesses and towns. 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).

The continued and greater distribution of vaccines is good news, for sure. However, vaccination acceptance has still not reached levels necessary for “herd immunity.” That will take more months and 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 if not vaccinated (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 every non-vaccinated person at all times if 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.

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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