A federal judge on Thursday denied a motion to order the immediate release of medically vulnerable detainees at Cook County Jail in Chicago to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.
“The Court concludes that plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the requirements of this temporary restraining order, coupled with the steps the Sheriff is already taking to prevent the spread of the disease, are insufficient and thus denies this requested relief,” US District Judge Matthew Kennelly wrote.
The lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of two current detainees at the jail, sought the release or transfer of elderly and medically compromised inmates. It cites accounts from detainees who complained the jail had not done enough to provide them with reasonably safe living conditions and adequate testing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
While Kennelly denied the plaintiff’s request for release, he did grant other remedies which Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart must begin implementing.
In his 37-page order, Kennelly ordered Dart to enact additional sanitation and quarantine guidelines to keep detainees safe. Kennelly also ordered Dart to begin prompt testing of inmates who exhibit Covid-19 symptoms by Saturday. Additionally, the judge said the Cook County Sheriff’s Office must provide face masks to all detainees who are quarantined starting April 12.
A request for comment from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department was not immediately returned. As of Thursday, there are 4,463 detainees at the Cook County Jail in Chicago.
By the numbers: The Cook County Sheriff’s office said Wednesday that 251 detainees and 150 staff members have tested positive for the virus. A majority of those employees are correctional deputies at the jail, according to a spokesperson for the sheriff's office.
Of the detainees sickened in the outbreak, 22 are hospitalized for treatment and 31 others have been moved to a recovery facility. Additionally, one detainee died of “apparent” complications of Covid-19, sheriff’s officials said, but an autopsy remains pending.