PAYETTE COUNTY — One of the 51 inmates currently in custody at the Payette County Jail has tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and he and five other inmates who he came in direct contact with are currently in a 14-day quarantine. And an official says there currently is no plan in place for what to do in case of a major outbreak.
The inmate who tested positive is isolated to a single cell within the pod he and the others are quarantined in, said Payette County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Creech in a phone interview this morning. In addition, the inmates will be screened for symptoms twice a day, and forms are currently being made to document those symptoms.
There are no medical facilities at the jail; however, a physician’s assistant who comes in a couple times a week to take care of medical needs. If something is needed when the PA is not available, the Payette County Ambulance will be called to evaluate.
The staff members who had contact with the inmate are not required to stay home, Creech said. Rather, they, along with the rest of their co-workers, are getting screened for symptoms at the beginning.
“The staff is coming to work. They are all wearing masks in pods and inmates in that pod are wearing masks, as well,” he said. “If any [employees] show any symptoms, they will be sent home.”
This was the case with a staff member on Monday night who had a fever, he said. At this time, Creech said, they do not know whether it is related.
As part of the quarantine, visitation will not be allowed for the inmates. However, that may soon be the case for all inmates, as Creech said a meeting is planned today to discuss shutting inmate visitation down again to help minimize the risk of the public bringing the virus in.
The sheriff’s office has met with Southwest District Health and the Payette County Emergency Managers, which recommended procedures to follow during the quarantine. These include screening, monitoring, testing and sanitizing.
At this point, “we don’t know where the inmate got it,” Creech said. While visitation is done over the phone through a glass panel, the jail currently still allows people to bring in some personal items, such as underwear, for inmates.
In addition, some inmates come in and out of the jail throughout the week for work release programs or only serve time on the weekends. On top of that, staff also comes in and out of the facility.
With this many different avenues for the virus to possibly make its way in, “it’s hard telling how it got in there,” Creech says.
Those who do test positive for COVID-19 will be pulled out of general population and put into single cells. The jail only has five single cells, Creech said, and when asked what the plan is if more than five inmates test positive, he indicated it is unclear at this time.
“At this point, we don’t necessarily have a plan in place. We are still working through that,” he said. “I don’t know where this takes us to at this point. We are working through doing what we can. Our hope is to separate them and do what we can and monitor other people to prevent the spread.”
If for some reason the jail runs out of single cells, transferring them to a different facility isn’t likely to happen, Creech says.
“Because they aren’t probably going to want them,” he said.