Four correctional officers who work out of a court holding area at the new Will County Courthouse tested positive for COVID-19 and other employees who worked in the same area were sent home to quarantine and test for the virus, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.
The court holding area has been closed down and no more inmates from the Will County jail will be taken to the area for the next two weeks, sheriff's office spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer said.
The court holding area is in the basement of the new courthouse and inmates are usually held in the court holding area with correctional staff while waiting to appear for their court hearings, she said.
Hoffmeyer said all sheriff's office employees are supplied with the appropriate personal protective equipment and aware of the safety guidelines regarding COVID-19. She said the sheriff’s office administration is making sure all guidelines are being followed inside the courthouse.
“This pandemic is not going away any time soon and we can’t let our guard down,” she said.
Friday morning, the sheriff’s office was made aware that a correctional officer who works in the court holding area had tested positive for COVID-19, Hoffmeyer said.
That officer, who did not show up to work that morning, found out he or she tested positive after being hospitalized Thursday evening with an unrelated medical issue, Hoffmeyer said. Another correctional officer started having symptoms Friday and later tested positive for COVID-19, and then two more correctional officers also tested positive for the virus, she said.
The court holding area was shut down and more than 15 correctional officers and other staff who worked in that area were sent home Friday morning to quarantine and test for COVID-19, Hoffmeyer said.
Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt did not immediately respond to a call Tuesday evening inquiring on whether there’s been COVID-19 cases among judges and courthouse staff.
Roger Holland, Will County trial court administrator, said that while there have been coronavirus infections among the county staff at the courthouse, he declined to give specific information citing federal law restricting release of medical information.
"We've experienced COVID cases," Holland said.
He said that the court has been dealing with any positive cases according to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When asked if he knew how many court employees had tested positive in recent weeks, Holland said he did not know the exact number.
Holland said that while he is always concerned about having enough staff working at the courthouse, he said he thought the current available staff level was "sufficient" despite some number of individuals testing positive for the virus.
"As far as I know, the courthouse is operating as it's supposed to," he said.
He emphasized that while the new courthouse is open to the public, visitors are required to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing. He said county employees are doing "everything we can" pursuant to public health guidelines.