ROCKFORD — A Winnebago County corrections officer has tested positive for COVID-19, county officials confirmed Friday.
The officer tested positive this week after being off duty since March 5. The officer has not worked in the jail since, according to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. No detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
The officer is recovering at home and will not return to work until cleared by doctors.
The Sheriff’s Department implemented several protocols last month in an effort to prevent the coronavirus from spreading through the jail.
All corrections officers are wearing masks. Anyone booked into the jail gets a temperature screening, and inmates are supplied with their own masks, which are changed regularly, Jail Superintendent Bob Redmond said. Surfaces in the jail are being sanitized numerous times every day.
"We have a very, very strict protocol that’s updated constantly," Redmond said. One shift lieutenant is dedicated entirely to COVID-19 safety — "that’s all his job is," Redmond said.
So far, three inmates have been tested for the disease after experiencing symptoms. All tests came back negative.
Police have been putting fewer people in jail since mid-March in an effort to limit officers’ and inmates’ potential exposure to the virus.
The result is a jail population that’s down 27% from this time last year. The jail’s average daily population this month is 558, compared to nearly 780 inmates in the jail each day in 2019.
The population has dropped as police have started issuing notices to appear in court for misdemeanor crimes rather than booking people into the jail for such offenses.
Only rare exceptions now lead to a jail booking for those low-level offenses. Felonies and violent crimes, driving under the influence and domestic violence will still lead to an arrest.
"The sheriff and his team continue to proactively work to keep inmates, corrections officers, deputies and 911 staff safe," Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney said in a news release. "Similar to the leadership team at our River Bluff Nursing Home, they are following CDC and IDPH guidelines at each and every turn. We wish this employee a quick and full recovery."
Kevin Haas: firstname.lastname@example.org; @KevinMHaas