All inmates and staff at the McLean County jail will be tested for COVID-19 after an inmate who has been awaiting transfer to a state prison recently tested positive, officials said Wednesday.
The inmate who tested positive has been in custody for several months and is awaiting transfer to the Illinois Department of Corrections, said Sheriff Jon Sandage. The inmate has been placed in isolation.
In announcing the jail’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, Sandage pointed the finger at the Pritzker administration. The governor in March suspended all admissions into IDOC from county jails. That move frustrated sheriffs around the state, who in response filed a lawsuit that remains pending. On Monday ,the governor issued a new executive order that will allow transfers to resume under certain precautions.
Sandage said Wednesday the suspended transfers “creates a health and financial burden on the McLean County Detention Facility and the taxpayers of McLean County.”
The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, which filed the lawsuit, said Monday’s executive order was “cooperation in name only.”
“We should be in this together, but nothing could be further from the truth,” the group said. “The administration is forcing local sheriffs and their taxpayers to bear the entire burden for the state’s Department of Corrections abdicating their responsibility under the guise of the pandemic. This cat-and- mouse game must stop, we need real coordination and a realistic plan.”
Jails and prisons around the country have faced outbreaks. Dozens of cases were reported last week at the Peoria County jail.
Sandage said the jail put in place precautions in March that kept COVID-19 out of the jail until now, including employee health screenings, limited inmate movement, temperature checks and quarantining incoming inmates for 14 days before being introduced to housing units.
“The sheriff’s office will work hand in hand with our health partners and the judiciary to make whatever adjustments are prudent to contain and control COVID infection in the (jail),” Sandage said.
There have been 486 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in McLean County, including 15 deaths.
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