PAYETTE COUNTY — Another inmate in the Payette County Jail tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, bringing the total of positive cases to two since the first was discovered July 7. However, according to Payette County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Creech, the inmate is no longer in the facility, as he was released this afternoon by a judge. The inmate was arrested on July 2 and has been asymptomatic while in custody.
The inmate who first tested positive is still in a single cell, quarantined from the rest of the jail along with four other inmates who were housed in that pod. The second inmate who tested positive was part of that same pod. While the other inmates’ tests came back negative, officials are still taking precautions.
“We are continuing with screening inmates twice a day,” Creech said, adding that the inmates who had direct contact with the inmate who initially tested positive are being monitored, too. “So far there hasn’t been any concerns.”
As for staff that were in direct contact with the inmate, all of the tests which have come back so far have been negative.
In responding to citizen comments regarding how inmates who are asymptomatic are getting tested, Creech said the only reason they are able to get the test is because they are inside a jail facility living in close quarters with others. In situations, such as correctional facilities and nursing homes where people are in close contact 24/7, Creech says, asymptomatic people will be tested.
Staff have also stepped up sanitazation measures at the facility and, in light of the significant climb in cases per capita in Payette County, overall at the courthouse, too.
“We’re trying to keep things good,” Creech said. “We’re sanitizing and cleaning. The masks help not just the public, but the employees who can’t stay safely apart.”
Creech said the commissioners do not intend and do not want to pass an ordinance requiring face coverings in Payette County.
“So, we’re just doing our part to keep everybody safe,” he said.
The intent is to keep the courthouse open as long as possible, according to Creech.
“When we shut down in April it caused a lot of problems. There are a lot of citizens and businesses that need to conduct business with us, and when it was on hold it was very difficult for the public,” he said.
The mask requirement is an effort to keep the courthouse open so they can keep providing those needed services.
The recent per capita case rate in Payette County, is “significantly different” than it has been during the course of the pandemic, Creech said. The county went from having two to three new cases per day over the first few months to 10 to 13 new cases per day in the last few weeks, he said. Because of this, he says, there is no way to compare Payette County to that of Boise or Ada where case numbers are higher but the average percentage of cases among the population is lower.
“When you think of per capita, it puts us in a different category,” Creech said.
Currently, he said, Payette County is rated as high risk.
As part of the quarantine, visitation along with other outside programming has been canceled. That other programming include church, property drop-off and meetings for Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Creech previously indicated he did not know how long the outside programming would be canceled, saying they would continue to monitor the inmates and make a determination at the appropriate time.