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Local

Sheriff's official: No inmates among 3 confirmed COVID-19 cases at DeKalb County Jail since March

Joyce Klein, chief of corrections for DeKalb County Jail, said the jail has only seen three cases of COVID-19 in corrections staff so far and zero among inmates since March.
Joyce Klein, chief of corrections for DeKalb County Jail, said the jail has only seen three cases of COVID-19 in corrections staff so far and zero among inmates since March.

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Since March, only three COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at the DeKalb County Jail, sheriff’s officials said.

Joyce Klein, chief of corrections for the jail, said that three corrections staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. She said zero inmates have tested positive for the virus (“I’m knocking on wood again,” she interjected) and pointed to quarantine practices the jail began rolling out in the spring as the reason why there have been so few cases.

“I think that that has really helped us out,” Klein said.

Currently, the jail inmate population is about 100, Klein said. The jail’s precautions against COVID-19 seem to be effective so far, she said.

Klein said the extra space coming from the jail expansion from a couple of years ago helped keep incoming inmates separate from the rest of the population. Once new inmates get through the booking area, which is sanitized regularly, they are put in a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, she said.

Klein said those quarantined inmates are in their own cell with a door. She also said jail staff has them wipe down everything they use whenever they have access to the cellblock day room by themselves.

“And so far that seems to have been effective,” Klein said. “And once their time is up in quarantine, they get assigned to a spot in general population.”

Klein said no visitors have been allowed at the jail since the spring, and the jail continues to use a symptoms questionnaire for inmates and staff, which has been updated a couple of times since March as local and state health recommendations were updated. She said inmate programs, counseling and attorney visits all are done via Zoom, and inmates who are not in discipline are allowed movie nights to help alleviate any anxiety they’re feeling.

Klein said the jail started sanitizing processes in March and staff has kept up with those protocols.

“Especially in the booking area,” Klein said. “Because that’s our exposure, with people coming in.”

If a staff member doesn’t feel well or they suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19, they are to call administration staff, who in turn call the health department to further navigate the situation, Klein said. She said the jail also has a couple of negative air pressure rooms available to help with any potential COVID-19 cases.

“In the event of a positive case of an inmate, we would just move them to a negative air pressure room,” Klein said.

Melissa Edwards, spokeswoman for the DeKalb County Health Department, wrote in a Nov. 13 email that the health department does not release information about individual cases in the community. However, she wrote local health officials have not identified an outbreak within the jail.

Klein said the three COVID-19 cases among staff members were separate from one another. She said each of the cases came from family members who had confirmed cases.

“It’s not like they caught it from within the jail,” Klein said.

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