ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Jail staff are speaking out over COVID concerns at Rock Island County Jail.
It comes after Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said the jail is not experiencing a COVID outbreak.
Employees told News 8 there is a different story they're facing on the job.
"To characterize it as an outbreak or that there is some problem that we have here is simply not true," Bustos said.
"I tend to disagree with the sheriff on that," jail staff union president Jeff Stulir said.
A former inmate told News 8 he felt the jail did not take enough COVID precautions during while serving his time in October 2021.
"It's horrible in there as far as the pandemic," said the former inmate, who wanted to remain anonymous. "This is really scary stuff."
The former inmate said there was a lack of PPE and separation of those with and without the virus.
"I know jail isn't supposed to be fun and games, but when it's a pandemic and people are dying, they need to take it serious," the former inmate said.
Bustos said the jail has had a "few" inmates sick in the last few months but none as of Jan. 20.
"Things within the county jail is not unlike everywhere else in America," Bustos said.
Bustos said only a "couple" staff were out sick as of Jan. 20.
"We certainly have a lot of protocols in place," Bustos said.
The sheriff said an issue arises with COVID restrictions that keep inmates in county jails from being sent to prison.
"I only have so many places to put people," Bustos said.
"The main issue is, we do have an outbreak," Stulir said.
Stulir said around 15 employees have taken off due to COVID since late December 2021.
"This (wave) seems to be covering a lot more inmates and staff," Stulir said.
"There's low morale, because we don't have what we need," correctional officer Celica Martinez said.
Staff said every cell area in the jail has been on quarantine lockdown since Christmas 2021. Staff said that means at least one positive case in each unit.
"We need PPE, we need stuff that the hospitals are using, because we're going into these units," Martinez said. "We're doing what we can."
"It's wearying down the staff," Stulir said. "It's hard on them."
Staffers said there may be more inmate COVID cases than reported due to a recent lack of testing.
Bustos said inmates are tested after showing symptoms, which staff said several inmates are showing those signs.