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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 very high– this historic public health crisis has grown to an extent never before seen in our region and country. Recently, various COVID numbers have declined somewhat but they remain dangerously higher than months ago.

As officials and healthcare professionals at the national level, in the State of Illinois and Cook County address the virus 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.

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 more than 15.55 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 1,108,430 cases of people who have or previously had virus. Sadly, COVID-19 has taken 18,883 lives in our state, including 3,737 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.

A long-running and disturbing pattern is 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 rose steadily ever since and shot up through October and November, rapidly leading to our current average of 7,419 new cases per day over more than three months. During this time, we saw 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 new case totals have been below 10,000 for the past month or so, and that is improving further. Overall increases must be beaten back even more; every effort is needed from the public for our county and state to return to truly 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 during 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% as of two weeks ago. But it has since continued to decline very well and is 4.6%, nearly as low as it was before fall 2020. The Chicago rate shot up in October-November reaching as high as [new method] 16% and fluctuated for three weeks before again rising considerably. After holding at well above 10 percent for a week-and-a-half, it is currently at 6.9% (last City update 1/25). Cook County overall was as high as [new method] 16.5% before fluctuations led to its present hold at 8.6% for more than a weel now. The improved City rate and improved-but-stagnant County rate are high, compared to five months ago. [NOTE: Illinois rates shown are by the standard method used since March; Chicago and Cook County rates are by new-method calculation.]

For months, 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 have for too long been on the wrong side of that critical point. Weekly totals of new cases in Illinois have been the highest ever here and routinely saw huge increases including: 51,466 in the third week of December and between 61,331 and 85,629 in each of the previous six weeks. Weekly totals since Christmas of 37,659 followed by higher figures of 41,912; 48,929; 40,079 showed we had not truly turned a corner. This past week’s total was somewhat encouraging at 33,440.

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, with most weeks setting new records.

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. 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. Hospitalizations have finally again declined substantially but ICU and ventilator numbers remain higher than last spring. To again reverse this public health crisis and return to solid overall progress, 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 did NOT mean people were less capable of spreading COVID-19.

The continuing surge in new coronavirus cases led to the return of many more preventive measures by Governor Pritzker and officials of Chicago and other municipalities in Cook County. Now, some of those measures have again been 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 greater distribution of two vaccines is good news. However, any vaccination requires 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 Coronavirus

CDC Travel Guidance

Illinois Department of Public Health

Cook County Department of Public Health


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