National Guard to set up medical facility at Stateville

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The National Guard is being brought into Stateville Correctional Center to assist with care of a growing number of inmates showing coronavirus symptoms.

Other hospitals have begun taking Stateville inmates to offset the influx of coronavirus patients that had been going exclusively to AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center until Monday, said state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood.

"They're actually going to bring in the National Guard to set up a health care facility at the prison to offset what has to go to the hospital," Walsh said Tuesday.

Fourteen inmates from Stateville were in a hospital because of coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, state officials said.

One Stateville inmate has died from coronavirus.

State officials Tuesday said 32 Stateville inmates and 18 employees have tested positive for coronavirus, the only widespread outbreak reported in the state prison system.

Morris Hospital took two Stateville inmates needing treatment on Monday and Tuesday, Walsh said,

Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox also will begin treating Stateville inmates for coronavirus cases.

At least two other hospitals also will take Stateville inmates, although it was unclear which ones.

Walsh said he was involved in a conference call late Monday afternoon with representatives from Gov. JB Pritzker's office and other state officials when the decision was made to bring the National Guard to Stateville.

The National Guard had arrived by Tuesday morning to assess the situation and begin planning for the temporary facility at the prison, Walsh said.

The National Guard will supplement medical services now provided at the prison in Crest Hill.

Staff members were "really up in arms" over the number of Stateville inmates being sent to AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center, Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk said. But the situation appeared to be under control by Tuesday.

"St. Joe's was very impressed by the response from the governor's office," O'Dekirk said.

Normal procedure at Stateville is to take patients to AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center because it is the closest hospital, Walsh said.

"It used to be one a month or one a week, but nothing like this," Walsh said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported Monday that 77 Stateville inmates and 11 employees had been isolated at the prison after showing coronavirus symptoms and were awaiting test results.

Pritzker also referred to "standing up temporary facilities for on-site medical missions with our National Guard" in dealing with coronavirus outbreaks at state prisons.

Other corrections facilities have not had the large outbreak seen at Stateville, according to numbers listed on the website for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Five other facilities, including the Joliet Treatment Center, have one confirmed case among staff. The North Lawndale Adult Transition Center in Chicago also has four confirmed cases among inmates.

Pritzker said the Department of Corrections is reviewing inmate records to consider early release of those near the end of their sentences and others considered to be low risk.

"All have been thoroughly vetted to make sure there are no histories of violence, and especially domestic violence, and all have homes to return to," Pritzker said.

The governor also said that the state was working with local health departments to provide hospitals that treat state prison inmates with "the best equipment that we can."