Nearly 20 County Jail Inmates and Staff Test Positive for COVID
After one inmate tested positive for COVID 19, the entire staff and all the inmates who consented were tested for COVID 19, and a number of them came back positive.
Missoula County Sheriff’s Captain Jeremiah Peterson provided details to KGVO.
“About a week ago, we had an inmate that became symptomatic and he was housed in one of the units,” said Captain Peterson. “He was subsequently tested and his test returned positive. “Based on recommendations from the Health Department here in Missoula, and from the state, they recommended that we test all of our inmates and have staff tested. We started doing that a little over a week ago, and we've been systematically working through the staff and the inmates, to get everybody that wants to be tested a COVID test.”
Peterson explained what happened after the tests were returned.
“We have had several inmates come back with positives,” he said. “We've had a few staff members that have also come back with positives. The inmates have been quarantined and isolated, and they're constantly monitored by our nursing staff. Obviously the staff members have been sent home and are quarantining at home and again, just working with the Health Department on proceeding.”
Peterson said the inmates are kept separate to keep COVID from spreading, but the system can break down.
“When individuals are brought in, they are screened by the officers, and based on how that goes determinations are made, whether or not they can be housed up front,” he said. “That's where they're kept pending being seen by our medical staff if that's needed before they're sent into the back, and obviously, our goal is to try and keep COVID out of the back, and we did a really good job of that for a long time. But unfortunately, we did get it back there, and so now we're just working through it and we're moving forward working with the Health Department working with the state to just keep everybody safe and move forward.”
Peterson said he understands the vital role the detention center plays.
“We totally understand that we're a crucial part of the criminal justice system, and we take all the precautions that we can,” he said. “And again, make sure those individuals are housed in separate areas from anybody that was either a positive or a close contact. However, it does present challenges too, because we only have so much space within the facility. I just would like to commend our folks. They're doing such a great job of balancing all of that to make it all work to keep not only the inmates safe, but our staff is our number one priority, we want to keep them safe while keeping the public safe as well.”
Peterson said masks are required to be worn at all times by detention center staff.
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