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Guard who failed fitness test sues Cook County sheriff

CHICAGO (AP) — A former jail guard has filed a federal lawsuit against the Cook County sheriff for allegedly dismissing her bid to become a courthouse deputy because she failed a fitness test.

Denise Hobbs, 59, claimed the test is discriminatory based on age, sex and race and the sheriff has required it even after an administrative judge ruled otherwise, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Hobbs twice failed the test in 2019. She said she was told to go back to work at the jail but then retired soon after.

She was among 25 people taking part in the training academy for courthouse deputies. Six were rejected, including Hobbs and three other Black women, one Black man and a white man, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the test was biased because it doesn’t correspond with a courthouse deputy’s duties and the standards were the same for all despite lower average abilities of older people and women.

Hobbs seeks unspecified damages and a court order blocking the sheriff from using the test.

The test, which was administered between 2014 and 2019, was agreed to by the union representing courthouse deputies

Matthew Walberg, a spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, said that the test was eliminated in 2019 “for reasons unrelated to the merits of the test.”

He said the guards who failed, including Hobbs, threatened a lawsuit and were offered courthouse jobs and Hobbs declined.

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fitness

Cook County Jail guard flunked fitness test, is suing Sheriff Tom Dart for discrimination

A former Cook County Jail guard is suing Sheriff Tom Dart for rejecting her bid to become a courthouse deputy because she flunked a fitness test.

Denise Hobbs, 59, says the test constituted age, sex and race discrimination and that the sheriff required it even though an administrative law judge had ruled otherwise.

Hobbs, who has filed suit against Dart in federal court in Chicago, is seeking unspecified damages and a court order blocking the sheriff from administering the test in the future.

Taking the test in July 2019, she failed two parts of the test: completing a 1.5-mile run in under 16 minutes and 52 seconds and doing 24 situps in a minute.

She apparently was able to pass the third part of the test: bench-pressing more than half of her body weight.

She was given a second chance two days later and was able to do the situps but again failed the running portion.

She said she was ordered to go back to work at the jail but retired a few months later.

Hobbs was among 25 people taking part in a training academy for courthouse deputies, including 15 men and 10 women between 30 and 59 years old. Eight, like Hobbs, were Black women, and three were Black men. Six people were rejected from continuing in the academy, including four Black women, one Black man and one white man.

The lawsuit says the test was biased because the standards were the same for everyone despite lower average abilities of older people and women. African Americans over 40 are less likely than whites to pass the test, according to the lawsuit, which also says the fitness exam doesn’t correlate with the duties of a courthouse deputy.

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents courthouse deputies, agreed to the fitness test, which was administered between 2014 and 2019.

“The sheriff’s office and the FOP share the desire to ensure that physically fit officers fill the deputy positions in court services,” says Matthew Walberg, a spokesman for the sheriff.

Shortly after Hobbs failed in July 2019, the fitness test was eliminated “for reasons totally unrelated to the merits of the test,” according to Walberg.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board found that the sheriff’s agreement with the FOP was invalid because the union for jail guards — the Teamsters — wasn’t part of the deal.

Walberg says Hobbs and the five other guards who failed the test threatened to sue, that the sheriff offered them courthouse jobs and that Hobbs declined and chose to retire.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Brian Rich / Sun-Times

More than 2,800 corrections officers and 660 court-services deputies work for the sheriff’s office. About 50 deputies transfer from the jail to courthouses each year, but no one is required to take a physical agility test now, according to Walberg.

The Cook County sheriff’s fitness standards.

The Cook County sheriff’s fitness standards.
U.S. District Court

Hobbs, who started work as a Cook County correctional officer in 2007, retired in September

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health

The US just topped 1,100 coronavirus deaths a day. One state is getting National Guard help, and others keep breaking records

You know Covid-19 is out of control when health officials are so overwhelmed, they can’t notify close contacts who may be infected.



a person holding a sign: Oct. 13, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona; Delta Air Lines has no-touch boarding at Sky Harbor International Airport. Delta Air Lines is promoting their health and safety practices in the COVID-19 air travel era.


© Rob Schumacher/The Republic/USA Today Network
Oct. 13, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona; Delta Air Lines has no-touch boarding at Sky Harbor International Airport. Delta Air Lines is promoting their health and safety practices in the COVID-19 air travel era.

That’s what’s happening in North Dakota, one of 31 states suffering more new Covid-19 cases this past week compared to the previous week.

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Contact tracing is crucial to finding possible carriers of coronavirus, so they can quarantine and break the chain of infection.

But a “sharp increase” in new cases has engulfed contact tracers, leading to delays and “a backlog of positive cases that have yet to be assigned to a case investigator,” the North Dakota Department of Health said this week.

“Close contacts will no longer be contacted by public health officials; instead, positive individuals will be instructed to self-notify their close contacts and direct them to the NDDoH website, where landing pages will be created … explaining the recommended and required actions for both positive patients and close contacts.”

The North Dakota National Guard has shifted 50 soldiers from contacting close contacts to notifying people who have tested positive, the state health department said.

‘No safe period of time’ to be maskless with someone outside your bubble

Nationwide, all Americans need to double down on safety measures now that the definition of “close contacts” has expanded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just broadened “close contacts” to include anyone you may have had brief contact with, within 6 feet, during a combined 15 minutes over the course of a day. (Previously, the CDC defined close contacts as anyone you had close encounters with for at least 15 minutes straight.)

“It reiterates the importance of everybody wearing a mask,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Jha and other health experts say there’s nothing magical about 15 minutes, and that the public shouldn’t assume spending less time with people without masks is safe.

“There is no safe period of time to be with somebody who’s not part of your bubble if both of you are not wearing masks,” he said.

“It’s really critical that people wear masks if you’re going to be with somebody for any period of time, even if it’s less than 15 minutes.”

The new CDC guidance came after researchers discovered even brief exposures (less than 15 minutes each) with an infected person nearby can silently spread coronavirus.

“A mask can protect other people from the virus-containing particles exhaled by someone who has COVID-19. As many as half of all people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, so it’s critical to wear a mask because you could be carrying the virus and not know it,” the CDC said.

Video: Iowa doctor warns “the virus is absolutely winning right now” (CNN)

Iowa doctor warns “the virus is absolutely

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health

The US just topped 1,100 coronavirus deaths a day. One state is getting National Guard help, and Puerto Rico’s 911 centers are shut down

You know Covid-19 is out of control when health officials are so overwhelmed they can’t notify close contacts who may be infected.



a person holding a sign: Oct. 13, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona; Delta Air Lines has no-touch boarding at Sky Harbor International Airport. Delta Air Lines is promoting their health and safety practices in the COVID-19 air travel era.


© Rob Schumacher/The Republic/USA Today Network
Oct. 13, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona; Delta Air Lines has no-touch boarding at Sky Harbor International Airport. Delta Air Lines is promoting their health and safety practices in the COVID-19 air travel era.

That’s what’s happening in North Dakota, one of 31 states suffering more new Covid-19 cases this past week compared to the previous week.

Contact tracing is crucial to finding possible carriers of coronavirus, so they can quarantine and break the chain of infection.

But a “sharp increase” in new cases has engulfed contact tracers, leading to delays and “a backlog of positive cases that have yet to be assigned to a case investigator,” the North Dakota Department of Health said this week.

“Close contacts will no longer be contacted by public health officials; instead, positive individuals will be instructed to self-notify their close contacts and direct them to the NDDoH website, where landing pages will be created … explaining the recommended and required actions for both positive patients and close contacts.”

The North Dakota National Guard has shifted 50 soldiers from contacting close contacts to notifying people who have tested positive, the state health department said.

‘No safe period of time’ to be maskless with someone outside your bubble

Nationwide, all Americans need to double down on safety measures now that the definition of “close contacts” has expanded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just broadened “close contacts” to include anyone you may have had brief contact with, within 6 feet, during a combined 15 minutes over the course of a day. (Previously, the CDC defined close contacts as anyone you had close encounters with for at least 15 minutes straight.)

“It reiterates the importance of everybody wearing a mask,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

“There is no safe period of time to be with somebody who’s not part of your bubble if both of you are not wearing masks,” he said. “It’s really critical that people wear masks if you’re going to be with somebody for any period of time, even if it’s less than 15 minutes.”

The new CDC guidance came after researchers discovered even brief exposures (less than 15 minutes each) with an infected person nearby can silently spread coronavirus.

Video: Coronavirus latest – Tuesday (CNN)

Coronavirus latest – Tuesday

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“A mask can protect other people from the virus-containing particles exhaled by someone who has COVID-19. As many as half of all people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms, so it’s critical to wear a mask because you could be carrying the virus and not know it,” the CDC said.

“While a mask provides some limited protection to the wearer, each additional person who wears a mask increases the individual protection for everyone. When more people wear masks, more people are protected.”

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Indiana nursing homes will receive help from National Guard

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The older, sicker residents in Indiana nursing homes make the environments particularly susceptible to the coronavirus. But there are other reasons why the disease has been so lethal there.

Indianapolis Star

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced on Wednesday that he would send members of the Indiana National Guard into nursing homes to help an “exhausted” staff care for residents.

The announcement comes as long-term care facilities are experiencing a surge of cases and deaths. To date, 2,205 residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities in Indiana have died of COVID-19, about 58% of coronavirus deaths statewide.

Beginning on Nov. 1, the National Guard will help with tasks such as staff screenings, data entry and testing to allow long-term care staff more time to directly care for residents. Facilities currently experiencing outbreaks will be the first to receive the aid.

Staff, residents and families are “simply, like so many, overwhelmed by the scale and pace that this virus can take on,” Holcomb said during the state’s weekly coronavirus press conference. “There is fatigue there. You’re seeing that; we’re hearing that when you’re on the ground.”

IndyStar investigation: Nursing home residents suffer as county hospitals rake in millions

But that fatigue should not necessarily come as a surprise. The pandemic exacerbated what was already a chronic problem revealed in an IndyStar investigation, published back in March.

Even before the pandemic, Indiana’s nursing home facilities were significantly understaffed, on average ranking 48th in the nation according to an analysis of federal data by IndyStar. Poor staffing at the state’s homes is one of the reasons AARP rates Indiana’s elder care system dead last in the country. The IndyStar investigation found several instances where poor staffing was cited as contributing to injury or death at Indiana facilities.

The use of the National Guard is one of several steps the state announced to prevent the spread of the disease in long-term care facilities and to maintain hospital capacity, one of the state’s four guiding principles for reopening. The state has twice as many Hoosiers hospitalized with COVID-19 today compared to late June and early July, said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer of the state health department.

The state will also connect facilities with clinical workers through its health care reserve program, which pairs retired or out-of-work health care workers with facilities in need. Weaver said the state had received 11 requests for help from the program from long-term care facilities just this week.

Additional workers will work with the Indiana State Department of Health to visit each long-term care facility at least three times a week, possibly more, to provide additional infection control training, Weaver said.

In addition to staffing help, the state will send 2 million N95 masks to long-term care facilities, the largest distribution of personal protective equipment in Indiana to date.

The efforts come as ISDH closes in on its goal to perform infection control surveys at every facility in the month of October, which Weaver expects to wrap up

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Cases again up at Notre Dame; Pope Swiss Guard cases

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Holidays are usually for gatherings but many get-togethers are complicated or canceled because of COVID-19.

USA TODAY

The U.S. recorded more than 69,000 new cases Friday for the first time since July, andupdated virus projections are bringing the long-feared “winter surge” of COVID-19 cases into focus as health experts warn an increasing number of infections in the U.S. will soon mean more deaths.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s latest model updates released this week contain spots of good news: 74,000 American lives can still be saved if mask use becomes nearly universal, and increased testing may explain why more young people are testing positive.

But the influential model still projects daily U.S. deaths will surpass 2,000 in January, even with states reimposing stricter orders.

The guidance also called out North Dakota specifically for its alarming death rate, following a well-documented lax approach to health mandates in the state: “North Dakota presently has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world,” a briefing on the model says.

The state joins South Dakota as having some of the lowest mask use rates in the nation. Rural counties across Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana sit among the top in the nation for new cases per capita over the last two weeks,

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.1 million cases and 219,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. There have been more than 39.6 million confirmed cases around the world and nearly 1.1 million deaths. 

📰 What we’re reading: Italy, once an epicenter for COVID-19, is worlds apart from the United States in its handling of the pandemic. “Italians have always looked up to the United States but what is happening now makes us watch in disbelief,” says one Italian professor.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Cases again surge at Notre Dame after parties

The University of Notre Dame announced a return to stricter rules on gatherings after cases at the school surged in recent days. Officials say off-campus tailgates and watch parties following a recent football home game are part of the reason for the increase in cases.

In a letter posted Thursday to the university’s COVID-19 website, Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding and Vice President for Campus Safety and University Operations Mike Seamon said the number of close contacts for each positive case had “increased substantially, with as many as 10 to 15 close contacts needing to quarantine.” At one time, the number of close contacts was only five per positive test.

The increase, he said, “would indicate they’re gathering in groups.”

In August, the university temporarily pivoted to online learning to stem a rash of cases.

— Andrew S. Hughes, South Bend Tribune

Man upset with mask mandate threatened Wichita mayor, police say

A retired firefighter

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