By Brad Edwards

Update: Jessica Huff, who it’s in part was alleged to have attempted to steal PPE by hiding it her hospital room, was released from the Cook County Jail on electronic monitoring on Saturday March 11.

 

CHICAGO (CBS) —  A federal judge said there will be no mass release of inmates from the Cook County Jail, COVID-19 or not. In late March the jail had two positive cases. Now it is potentially the largest cluster of COVID-19 in the country.

There have been 289 detainees who tested positive. Two inmates died, and the virus is the suspected cause.

Also, 167 correctional staff members and jail staff members have tested positive.

The jail might be the hottest spot in the country, a veritable petri dish of despair. Now a woman who likely shouldn’t be there is speaking from the inside.

Jessica Huff is in Cook County lockup on a burglary charge. She could be out, but her case is gummed up because she has another retail theft charge out of DuPage County, so she couldn’t get out on the monitoring she was granted in Cook County.

“I have a heart condition,” she said. “I have what is called endocarditis.”

She also has asthma, making her legal tangle life or death.

She is staying in the jail’s hospital. It’s Cermak 3 East Division H.

“All of us up here are in Cermak because we have severe conditions that we cannot be in population in the jail for,” Huff said. “That they are bringing people up here with COVID and placing them in the isolation cells that we have to live on this unit with. I was just in isolation for 24 hours for COVID because my roommate had severe symptoms of it. She’s still in isolation.”

Huff said the guards do not have protective masks or rubber gloves “at all times.”

Jail officials say all guards have proper personal protective equipment and are ordered to wear it at all times.

“I’m not admitting guilt, but if I were guilty, I don’t deserve a death sentence,” Huff said. “I don’t deserve to die in here. Nobody deserves to die in here. I fear for my life.”

And worse, she said it seems like her jailers simply don’t know what to do.

“They have sheets and towels underneath the doors of these cells to try to block them from the air coming out,” Huff said.

Patient safety is the number one concern, said Cook County Health. They run the jail hospital. The sheriff’s department said all guards are under order to wear PPE at all times.

As for why Huff is still in custody, she may not be soon. The warrant in DuPage County was just canceled. Friday the sheriff’s department brought her case to the state’s attorney and public defenders’ offices. She could have her electronic monitor removed in short order.

Brad Edwards