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As Rock Island Co. Jail sees COVID outbreak, inmate's mother asks for answers

This news comes as staff and inmates' families tell News 8 there's some progress being made but also setbacks to addressing their COVID-19 concerns.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — There are new developments in ongoing coverage of COVID concerns at the Rock Island County Jail.

The Rock Island County Health Department confirmed to News 8 that the facility is under a COVID-19 outbreak.

That news comes as staff and inmates' families tell us there's some progress being made but also setbacks to addressing their concerns.

One mother of one inmate shared the serious illness her son said he experienced.

"My son had called every night, letting me know that he had COVID," the mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, said. "We don't treat our people like this. Just because these people did something wrong, these are our children."

Her son has been locked up in the Rock Island County Jail since last fall. She said he experienced something he never wants to relive the week of Jan. 17.

"He has never in his life experienced feeling this bad ever," she said.

She said for a week, he was severely sick among a handful of other inmates in their cellblock. The mother said he had to buy pain reliever himself, but his main relief was calling her. 

"My son calling me, saying 'help,' and I can't help," she said. 

She believes her son caught COVID-19.

"I was really upset that they didn't have positive cases," she said.

She was referring to the county reporting that no inmates had COVID, only a "couple" staff as of Jan. 20.

"That was because they did not test anybody," she said.

Jail staff News 8 spoke with that same week said it's about the same thing they've noticed.

"We're typically gone down as far as testing because there's so many people with symptoms, it's almost like they not necessarily that they don't want to report that there's positive COVID but that'd rather not know," correctional officer Celica Martinez said.

Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos, who runs the jail, told News 8 on Jan. 20 there was no outbreak in the facility.

"To characterize it as an outbreak or that there is some problem that we have here is simply not true," Bustos said.

The health department said because the jail is what's called "a congregate care setting," just two positive cases within two weeks or one case with others showing symptoms determines an outbreak. 

The department said some rapid COVID tests were issued last week. 

The mother said there's much more work to be done.

"You don't lock guys out of their room when they've got COVID and not test them and not give them things that they need," the mother said.

The mother said the week of Jan. 17 was the first time her son was given a mask to wear, but she said it was only because of an upcoming court date, which was canceled. Her son's cellblock was on "quarantine lockdown" due to its COVID concerns.

Staff told News 8 Jan 26. that new PPE was delivered. 

Sheriff Bustos declined to comment to News 8 for an update on the jail's COVID case count.

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