Coronavirus is tearing through prison and jail populations in Ohio and Illinois

Hollie SilvermanCNN

(CNN) — Prison and jail populations across the United States are becoming a breeding ground for the coronavirus, sickening thousands of inmates and detainees as well as the staff and employees that work in the facilities.

While measures were put in place to try and stop the spread the virus, it is difficult to contain such a contagious illness in congregate settings where people are forced to live, work and eat in close quarters.

More than 2,300 cases across three prisons

Across three state prison facilities in Ohio, more than 2,300 inmates tested positive, with 1,858 testing positive at one prison alone.

On Saturday, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reported more than 1,400 inmates tested positive at the Marion Correctional Institution, the Pickaway Correctional Institution and Franklin Medical Center.

The department said in a statement to CNN that several mitigation measures had been put in place, including isolating infected inmates, performing more disinfecting cleaning sessions and canceling all visitations and volunteer activities.

Despite efforts to stop the spread, more than 950 new cases were reported Sunday across those inmate populations, with at least 700 more inmates testing positive at the Marion facility alone, the ODRC website reported

Late last week, ODRC tested all staff and inmates at the three facilities after initial results came back with positives, spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told CNN in an emailed statement.

“Because we are testing everyone — including those who are not showing symptoms — we are getting positive test results on individuals who otherwise would have never been tested because they were asymptomatic,” Smith said.

A total of 152 inmates tested positive in one dorm, 60 of them were asymptomatic, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during a Friday press conference.

Five ODRC inmates who tested positive for coronavirus have died but no additional information on their deaths was immediately available.

Four detainees from one Illinois jail died

In Illinois, a fourth detainee of Cook County Jail died Sunday, a press release from the Sheriff’s Office said.

To help fight the spread of the virus the jail released almost a fourth of its population. Of the roughly 10,000 detainees previously housed in Chicago’s Cook County Jail only 4,200 remain in custody.

Part of the decrease can be attributed to bail reform, which cut the jail’s initial population by almost half. But 1,300 more inmates were released in the last month.

“We want to make sure that we’re creating conditions whereby people who don’t need to be there aren’t there and the people who are there have optimal conditions for their health and safety,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said.

Karl Battiste, 64, died at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital where he was receiving treatment after testing positive for coronavirus. His cause of death is pending autopsy, according to the release.

A total of 215 detainees in custody of the jail are currently positive, including 21 who are being treated at local hospitals, according to the release. It also said 180 have already recovered.

But detainees aren’t the only ones infected. A total of 191 correctional officers have tested positive and 34 other Cook County Sheriff’s employees have also tested positive for coronavirus, the release said.


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