More Than 100 People Incarcerated in Cook County Jail Have Tested Positive for COVID-19

In just one week, the number of people at Cook County Jail who have tested positive for COVID-19 has gone from two to 101, with more than 90 people awaiting test results. At the current rate of infection, all of the 5,000 people incarcerated in Cook County Jail could be sick within ten more days.

We are in the midst of a public health crisis, and Cook County Jail is quickly on its way to becoming the epicenter. Social distancing is impossible inside jails and prisons, making the rate at which the virus spreads much higher than on the outside. People will die if Cook County’s Sheriff, Chief Judge, and State’s Attorney don’t take dramatic action now. Cermak Health Services, the medical facility at Cook County Jail, is not equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. With 5,000 people crammed like sardines inside the jail, the question is not if but when the infection will overwhelm Cermak and potentially the county’s entire healthcare system. 

We are asking you to please continue to call and email the Cook County Sheriff, Chief Judge, and State’s Attorney to demand they quickly act to decarcerate the jail to save lives. You can get all the necessary phone numbers, email addresses, and scripts here:

Delays in release cost lives. The inadequate pace at which Cook County officials are moving to decarcerate the jail is going to result in more illness and death. It has taken more than two and a half weeks to bring the number of people in the jail down by just several hundred. County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a press conference on Friday, March 27th that she expects another thousand people to be released in the coming weeks, but we do not have that kind of time. Cook County must act boldly, today—the lives people inside and outside the jail depend on it. 

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