Pekin Prison COVID-19 Outbreak Spikes; Tazewell County Jail Controlled | WGLT

Pekin Prison COVID-19 Outbreak Spikes; Tazewell County Jail Controlled

Dec 1, 2020
Originally published on December 1, 2020 8:19 pm

A recent COVID-19 outbreak at the Tazewell County Jail is under control, but the same can't be said for the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, the medium security women’s prison has 107 confirmed active cases, including 96 inmates and 11 staff members.

In October, there were 74 detainees and three employees with COVID-19, and the facility has had multiple lockdowns as it attempts to reduce spread of the virus.

The situation is far better at the county jail, where a November outbreak resulted in 39 inmates and six staff members contracting the disease.

“We have one inmate on quarantine,” Sheriff Jeff Lower said Tuesday. “The rest of them have been placed back into population. They’ve served their quarantine time and really didn’t have any serious symptoms.”

Lower said testing on Monday produced the one positive among the detainees. He said two employees are currently off work, one who tested positive and one who has a positive family member.

The sheriff credited his staff’s ability to meet the challenge of covering shifts and handling the facility’s quarantine lockdown for controlling the outbreak. He said they are still following procedures to reduce any further spread of the virus.

“We have limited the intake on who we’re receiving, and we’re still quarantining people that do come in for 14 days, isolating in a cell and keeping him away from the general population,” said Lower. “And, we’re just cleaning as much as we can.”

Things also have greatly improved at the Peoria County Jail, according to Sheriff Brian Asbell. That facility was locked down in July after 37 positive tests and faced overcrowding due to a COVID-related capacity reduction.

Asbell said Tuesday the jail has not had a positive test since late October and is no longer considered an “outbreak facility.” While he said the jail hasn’t yet been caught by the pandemic’s “second wave,” he believes it may only be a matter of time before the increasing community rate reaches the facility.

“We have learned a lot over the past eight months and have implemented procedures to mitigate risk,” said Asbell. “However, by design the jail has high potential for another outbreak. In my opinion, it’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when.’ Until that time, we remain optimistic and will continue to do everything we can to prevent another outbreak.”

Asbell said they also have had to manage through a workforce reduction from adherence to exposure protocols.

“There are still many challenges being faced, no different than so many other businesses and organizations,” he said. “But we are fortunate in having strong collaboration with the health department, county administration and county board during this moment in history.”

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