Confidential data shows many Illinois coronavirus outbreaks have been undisclosed: report


Outbreaks of coronavirus in schools, workplaces and other facilities are driving the surge of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois, some of which have not been publicly identified, according to a new study. 

The study from journalists at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting published in USA Today indicates that individual clusters of coronavirus infections are primarily responsible for the latest wave of new COVID-19 cases vexing public health officials in the state, with several outbreaks occurring at correctional facilities and a major military base.

The second-largest outbreak identified by the study, which until now has not been reported to news organizations, is occurring at the Great Lakes Naval Base in Lake County, Ill., where 228 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified over the past month according to confidential data recorded by Illinois officials and obtained by the study.

The number of cases in Cook County Jail is also surging, with 1,074 cases reported as of Sept. 30 and continuing despite the Department of Corrections’ decision to halt visits to the prison earlier this year. A spokesperson said the outbreak “continues to be deliberate and aggressive” when contacted for comment on the study.

Many of the outbreaks identified by the study, including the one at Great Lakes Naval Base, have not previously been identified in public statements by the Illinois Department of Health, which told the journalists in a statement that it was bound by state and federal law to shield the identities of infected persons.

“Another consideration is the fact that people may not have become infected at the business location,” the Health Department told the study’s authors.

Other outbreaks in several meatpacking plants across the state have also been recorded, according to the study, while an outbreak at one combination elementary and middle school, the Sparta Lincoln School in Randolph, Ill., infected more than a dozen faculty, students and family members forcing the school to temporarily shutter and reopen with new anti-coronavirus procedures.

State health officials announced 2,538 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. Illinois has reported more new cases in the past seven days than much of the country, though it lags behind larger states such as Texas and Florida.

The state has now identified more than 322,000 total infections of COVID-19, and is currently seeing as many new cases per day as it saw in during the peak of its first wave of coronavirus infections earlier this year.

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