Hampshire jail reports 11 inmates with coronavirus

  • Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office staff at work. FACEBOOK/HAMPSHIRE SHERIFF’S OFFICE, JAIL AND HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS

  • Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office staff putting on personal protective equipment. FACEBOOK/HAMPSHIRE SHERIFF’S OFFICE, JAIL AND HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS

  • Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office staff at work. FACEBOOK/HAMPSHIRE SHERIFF’S OFFICE, JAIL AND HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2020 6:41:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The number of inmates who are confirmed to have COVID-19 at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction has risen to 11, Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick J. Cahillane announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Cahillane wrote that one staff member has also tested positive and that three other staff members have tested negative for the infectious disease. The jail is continuing to conduct contact tracing and notifications in regard to the infected staff member, he wrote.

“Early screenings of our client population have enabled us to identify those individuals who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 and place them in quarantine as needed and begin treatment as necessary,” Cahillane said. “All positive cases are stable and showing signs of improvement. We are also screening for the flu at this time.”

The jail has opened a full medical unit to treat inmates sick with the novel coronavirus. The unit is on the jail’s campus but away from the main housing units, according to Cahillane. It has its own individual rooms and its own air circulation system.

The inmates confirmed to have COVID-19 “are currently housed in this unit and are receiving the highest quality care from our medical and security staff in accordance with medical and state Department of Public Health guidelines and are separated from the general population,” Cahillane wrote.

Inmates in pretrial units are currently quarantined in their individual rooms and are being assessed three times a day by medical staff, Cahillane said, adding that he will “reevaluate the situation” based on updated information and public health guidance.

Cahillane also said that since March 16, the jail has returned 84 inmates to the community through COVID-19 releases, bail and personal recognizance, including 10 inmates who have been released through electronic monitoring. Case reviews are ongoing, he said.

Weeks ago, the jail had implemented a process to take the temperatures of all staff who enter the building. This has since been expanded to inmates three times a day, he said. Any inmate with a fever is removed from their housing unit, tested and placed in quarantine until a laboratory returns results.

“We have found that early recognition and testing is giving us a leg up on treating the individual at the early stages of this virus,” Cahillane said.

The Hampshire Sheriff’s Office is in daily contact with state Department of Public Health officials, including an epidemiologist assigned to work with the state’s 14 sheriffs, and is intensifying efforts to manage the situation, according to Cahillane.

“Managing facilities and people is what we have trained to do,” Cahillane said. “Although this situation is unique, we continue to ensure that everyone is getting the best care possible from certified medical professionals.”

Hampden County Sheriff’s Department

At the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, as of Wednesday morning, there are zero inmate cases of COVID-19 out of the jail’s total population of 908 inmates, said Steve O’Neil, senior public information officer at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.

O’Neil said that seven staff members in total have tested positive for the coronavirus, one of whom was a correctional officer. Two of the seven staff members have returned to work healthy, O’Neil said. As of Wednesday, 48 staff members are out of work due to precautionary measures, down from 69 staff members who had been out previously, according to O’Neil.

Any suspected sick inmates are placed in medical quarantine in a separate area of the facility, O’Neil said, where they will usually stay for 14 days before returning to their housing area. All staff and inmates are required to wear masks at all times, except for eating.

Staff are medically screened before clocking into their shift, O’Neil said, which includes having their temperature taken, answering a series of questions and being visibly symptom-free. Those who fail this protocol are sent home with pay until next steps are determined; medical staff must individually clear them before they are allowed to return to work.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.
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