COVID-19 Cognizance in a Correctional Setting

Reviewed by Clare Marlin, MS, BSN, CIC; Shirley Ryan AbilityLab 

Zawitz and colleagues detail their mitigation efforts and actions implemented at Cook County Jail (CCJ) (Chicago, IL) to stem the spread of COVID-19 following its initial identification within the Jail in March 2020 and through April 30, 2020, during which time 907 cases of COVID-19 among CCJ detainees and staff occurred per study criteria (attack rate of approximately 13% among detainees). Correctional and detention facilities, like CCJ, are at especially high risk for the spread of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 as a result of their physical environment (i.e. communal spaces, close proximity among detainees and numerous staff members) and at-risk population (i.e. increased immunocompromised status of the detainees compared with the general population, pre-existing medical conditions). To slow, and stop, the spread of COVID-19, examples of the collaborative measures implemented by CCJ beginning in March 2020 included: Hand hygiene education; Reducing the number of detainees by releasing some detainees to the community on electronic monitoring; Stopping visitation to CCJ; Conversion of cells to single occupancy; Quarantining individuals or, as needed, whole units of detainees; Staff universal masking and, later, universal masking of detainees; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Accountability Team, which encouraged the appropriate use of PPE. Additionally, CCJ upstaffed during this time to allow for increased physical expansion to house detainees in single cells and promote physical distancing. The authors concluded that the extensive interventions they implemented, along with diagnostic testing, can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in correctional and detention facilities similar to that of CCJ. 


Zawitz, C. et al. (2021). Outbreak of COVID-19 and interventions in a large jail—Cook County, IL, United States, 2020. American Journal of Infection Control, doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2021.03.020 

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