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Family Mourns Cook County Correctional Officer Who Died Of Coronavirus

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cook County Jail continues to be one of the biggest hotspots in the country with 215 detainees now having tested positive for coronavirus.

This week, the county Sheriff's office lost one of their own who worked there as a correctional officer. CBS 2's Marissa Parra spoke to the family of the officer, Sheila Rivera.

Officer Sheila Rivera
Officer Sheila Rivera (left). (Supplied by family)

A total of 185 correctional officers had COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Another 100 Cook County Sheriff's employees have recovered and returned to work.

One of those who was sick was Officer Rivera. The virus killed her on Sunday.

"She liked helping people," said Rivera's brother, Sonny Mattera.

Rivera was once a social worker and then became a police officer before finding her place as a corrections officer with the Cook County Jail.

Even among the detainees, her brother said, she was respected.

"Some of the inmates came and told her if there was ever a fight, they'd make sure she didn't get hurt," Mattera said.

Mattera spoke to CBS 2 from Mississippi, where the family grew up together with their sister. The three of them are proud Choctaw Indians.

At first, Rivera, 47, told her family she thought she had the flu. She was sick all week, and then on Friday, she tested positive for COVID-19 and things quickly started to spiral.

"After she was admitted to the hospital, she had a seizure," Mattera said.

But she was tough, and the family thought it would pass. But it didn't.

"It wasn't until later that we heard she had a heart attack," Mattera said.

Ultimately, it was all too taxing.

In hindsight, her brother said he thinks more could have been done.

"She was very nervous going to work," Mattera said. "I think because she's immunocompromised for having diabetes, she should have been protected more and not placed with inmates with known coronavirus."

Officer Sheila Rivera And Family
Officer Sheila Rivera and family. (Supplied by family)

The day after Rivera died, dozens from the Cook County Sheriff's office and Chicago Police turned out in support. Rivera's husband Noland – a Chicago Police officer – and their 16-year-old son, Isaiah, said their last goodbyes.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Isaiah's college fund.

Another corrections officer, Antoine Stewart, died at his Crestwood home Sunday. An investigation is underway to determine whether his death is COVID-19 related.

Meanwhile, earlier this month a judge ordered Sheriff Tom Dart to institute several measures to keep the jail safe, including rapid testing and social distancing. Dart said they were already doing all those things except putting masks on detainees in the quarantine unit.

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