Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday that his office’s 2,600 employees will have to be vaccinated to return to work, with limited exceptions. That includes judges and workers at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. This after the Chief Judge was criticized for previously not mandating the vaccine for all employees and WBEZ initially reported about the lack of mandate.
“Public health experts have determined that unvaccinated individuals are more likely to contract and transmit the virus and to experience more serious symptoms of COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated,” said Chief Judge Evans in a statement. “This step is being taken to ensure the safest possible workplace for our employees, and to protect employees of our justice partners, court services patrons, residents of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and the general public.”
The move comes as the county has seen a spike in cases, including among Cook County Jail detainees — with the most recorded cases at the jail since mid-December 2020, before vaccines were made widely available, according to Injustice Watch’s Cook County Jail Coronavirus tracker.
Currently, 307 detainees in custody and 270 Cook County Sheriff employees are positive with COVID-19, according to the Sheriff’s office.
At the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, five employees and seven residents are positive, both groups include people who previously tested positive.
Unvaccinated employees must comply with the mandate within 21 days. Amanda Klonsky, a member of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center’s advisory board, said that while this is major progress, it’s baffling that there was no mandate until Tuesday evening.
“The main threat to the health and safety of people who work in jails, prisons and detention centers at this time is COVID, so this stuff is for the protection of people who work in these institutions, as well as for children who are detained there,” Klonsky said.