La Salle County Jail has hit a state COVID-19 infections threshold

Inmate movement restricted but visits allowed – for now

Nobody has been rushed from a cell to a hospital bed. But there are enough people sick with COVID-19 that La Salle County Jail is officially in “outbreak” status.

Jason Edgcomb, jail superintendent, confirmed Wednesday the county lockup entered outbreak status this week after exceeding six positive tests. While the current situation doesn’t much mirror spring 2020 – the current variant is more contagious but also less deadly – the county has implemented numerous precautions.

There is no moving of inmates within the jail. The staff checks on inmates several times a day. There is a once-a-week testing protocol for everybody. They’ll follow those protocols until they’ve marked 28 consecutive days without a positive test.

“This is the first time we’ve had such a large number come back positive in one testing,” Edgcomb said. “We are watching closely for anybody who may need to go to the hospital, and we will not hesitate to do that.”

Edgcomb further noted the visitor lobby is open and video visits still are available. The situation is fluid, however, and visitors are advised to check the jail website for updates and announcements before making a visit.

Volunteers have been told to stay home. GED instructors and volunteers from Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, have been told they may not report until outbreak status has been lifted.

“Until this gets under control, we’re not going to allow any volunteers in.”

Meanwhile, those inmates who are awaiting transfer to the Illinois Department of Corrections can expect to wait a bit longer.

The DOC is temporarily pausing intakes from county jails as it responds to COVID-19 outbreaks at correctional facilities including Graham, Logan, Menard and Northern Reception as well as Classification Centers where county jails transport new admissions.

County sheriffs were notified Tuesday afternoon. The DOC said it will, however, continue accepting individuals from county jails who are scheduled to be released from custody the same day they are transferred. Individual requests for intakes because of special circumstances, such as medical or safety concerns, will be considered. When COVID-19 cases decline, IDOC expects space to become available for county jail intakes.

“Congregate living facilities present unique infection control challenges due to the lack of quarantine and isolation space,” said IDOC Director Rob Jeffreys. “The Department recognizes the hardships county jails face when we cannot accept admissions, but we must take aggressive action to keep the community and everyone who lives and works in our facilities safe and healthy.”

IDOC said all staff and individuals in custody are temperature checked, masked, symptom screened and routinely tested. Three-quarters of the incarcerated population and 66% of staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.

IDOC continues to work closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health, infectious disease consultants, and correctional agencies across the nation to ensure best practices and protect the health and safety of those inside its facilities.