Douglas County Jail Sees COVID-19 Outbreak Among Inmates
The latest uptick in active COVID-19 cases has hit the Douglas County Jail. In the last week, 24% of the population has tested positive for COVID-19; 33 inmates are affected.
The current wave of COVID cases started small. According to details in the Superior Telegram [paywall], "[i]t started with a few inmates who weren't feeling well....one or two tested positive, and the unit was quarantined automatically". Those first few positive cases resulted into testing facility-wide.
Douglas County Jail Administrator Tyler Edwards explains that "...then they went and tested everybody, and that's how we came to the numbers we're at. We caught it right away, isolated them, and it never became an issue." Nonetheless, that spike in COVID-19 positive cases came quick; it only took four days for it to go from "a few" inmates to 33.
The current spike also affected staff members. "In addition to the 33 inmates, five jailers have tested positive for COVID-19" in the same time period. Each of the staff was already vaccinated for COVID-19, so that "cut[s] down....[their] quarantine time".
Due to the 33 inmates testing positive, an additional 21 inmates were being quarantined "due to close contact exposure"; none of these inmates, though has tested positive. The isolation period for them is expected to pass "early next week". No new cases have been detected in the Douglas County Jail since "the middle of last week".
As far as safety protocols go, the Douglas County Jail has multiple systems in place to help prevent new cases as much as possible and to tamp down the potential for spread. Some of the highlights include:
- Quarantine for new inmates. Groups of incoming inmates are quarantined together for about a week. They're tested for COVID-19 before they are released in general population.
- Jail officers and staff are "able to get tested" for the virus as often as they want. At this point, the Douglas County Jail hasn't mandated testing. [This current spike saw the jail "encouraging" weekly tests for jailers; "so far everyone has done so".
- Jail staff and inmates are required to wear a mask unless they are in their own private cell or office.
- Temperature checks are performed on everyone who enters the jail facility.
- Jail officials are limiting the number of less serious offenders being held.
As far as vaccinations go, the jail did do a bulk vaccination effort back in June. They were also offered in August. "[A]bout 100 inmates have received vaccines at the jail". This most-recent spike has spurred plans to re-offer the vaccine again "to catch any new inmates or transfers".
Those earlier vaccinations probably helped in this current wave with lessening the symptoms and severity of the COVID-cases. Edwards shared that "22 of the 33 inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 in the unit had been vaccinated". He offered that "I think that helped a lot with the seriousness of their illness. They've been monitored by our medical department, but we haven't sent anyone to the hospital. Nobody has gotten that ill where they needed to go to the hospital".