The Washington County jail is experiencing its “worst outbreak” of COVID-19 since the pandemic began after 18 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday.
All of the infected inmates were housed in the 3-East medium security unit, which now is under quarantine until at least Monday, along with various other restrictions attempting to stop the spread of the virus, Warden Jeffrey Fewell said.
The outbreak was detected Wednesday when an inmate became ill and was taken to the infirmary. A COVID-19 test was performed as routine procedure and came back positive, Fewell said, prompting all 75 inmates in the ward to get tested. So far, 18 have tested positive in the male ward, although only two are exhibiting minor symptoms, he said.
Two jail staff members also tested positive and are quarantining at home for 10 days while taking paid leave, Fewell said.
“It’s the worst outbreak we’ve had,” Fewell said. “We’ve been lucky so far. We just gotta manage through this.”
In addition to quarantine, the jail is not permitting visitation in the unit, along with no showers, telephone calls, tables usage or commissary visits, jail officials said. Food will be served in Styrofoam containers and delivered to an inmate’s cell.
The quarantine and various restrictions will continue until Monday when all inmates will once again be tested. Those who are positive will remain in quarantine, and those who are negative will be able to resume normal activities.
“It’s becoming routine. Our protocols are set, but we’re fluid since it’s reviewed every 72 hours with medical on staff monitoring,” Fewell said.
Of the 18 infected inmates, 10 of them were not vaccinated. Five were fully vaccinated with two Pfizer shots, and one had received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Two others had received only one shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Fewell did not say if the two infected staff members were vaccinated from the virus.
It’s the second time in the past month that the jail has experienced an outbreak, although the previous infections were quickly isolated. Three female inmates tested positive Sept. 17 in the 1-Southeast ward, which was locked down due to its dormitory setting. Two male inmates at the 4-West maximum security pod also tested positive that day, but other inmates living in that area were not required to quarantine because the two infected men were segregated from the rest of the population
The jail housed 326 inmates as of Thursday, Fewell said.