Apr 8, 2020 - Health

NYT: Chicago's Cook County jail is largest-known source of coronavirus in U.S.

In this image, inmates vote under an American flag
Cook County Jail inmates vote in the Illinois primary election on March 7. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago's Cook County jail is the largest-known source of coronavirus infections in the U.S., the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Several state-run jails — including the Cook County facility — have released prisoners to fight the spread of virus between inmates who live in overcrowded and often unsanitary spaces.

By the numbers: Illinois has reported close to 500 deaths from COVID-19 — one of the highest rates in the country outside New York — with most cases located in Chicago or surrounding counties.

  • At least 353 COVID-19 cases can be traced back to the jail, according to the Times — but since most of the jail's 5,000 inmates have not been tested, corrections officers say that more cases are likely.
  • 238 inmates and 115 staff members have tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday, per the Times.

Background: The White House coronavirus task force is tracking cases in Chicago's metro area out of concerns of exponential growth, response coordinator Deborah Birx said on Tuesday.

Go deeper: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons to enter 14-day quarantine

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