Sheriff: 11 COVID cases at Hampshire County jail, all unvaccinated

  • Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction. 2020 file photo. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/14/2021 4:26:10 PM
Modified: 12/14/2021 4:25:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Eleven pretrial detainees at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction, all of whom are unvaccinated against COVID-19, are under quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to the sheriff’s office.

In public statements announcing the outbreak, Sheriff Patrick J. Cahillane said one pretrial detainee tested positive on Nov. 27 and 10 more tested positive since then, including seven on Saturday. All 11 men were symptomatic, he said.

In a Tuesday memo to jail staff that he shared with the Gazette, Cahillane said he was suspending in-person visits, including visits by volunteers. Judicial proceedings and attorney visits will be conducted via video conferencing until “it is safe to change course.” He also appointed an internal “COVID Czar” to regulate staff movement, approve off-site transports and enforce cleanliness, social distancing and masking protocols.

“The safety of the men in our care and of our staff is of paramount importance to me. By protecting the people under our roof, we help to protect the communities we serve,” Cahillane wrote.

During the first 12 hours of Tuesday, he said the jail’s medical team performed rapid tests of 45 staff members who frequent the quarantine housing unit, and all were negative. Testing is ongoing.

“Our vaccination rate among staff has plateaued at roughly 75 percent. I would ask those of you who remain unvaccinated to consider that we, as public health and safety professionals, really have but one duty: The duty to care,” Cahillane wrote. “Our medical department has more than enough vaccine on hand to reach the goal of 100 percent staff vaccinations. Please do your duty and help us eradicate this virus from our facility.”

On Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 637 new cases of COVID-19 in Hampshire County within the previous seven days, a 62.5% spike from the prior week, and nine new hospital admissions; 62.9% of eligible people are fully vaccinated.

“I want the residents of Hampshire County to know that we are redoubling our efforts to contain this outbreak and to vaccinate as many people under our roof as possible, as quickly as possible,” Cahillane wrote.

In Franklin County, Sheriff Christopher Donelan said that “all” Franklin County Jail and House of Correction staff are fully vaccinated in accordance with the Baker administration’s mandate for state employees and that some have begun to receive booster shots.

“Our greatest fear is that we are the ones who bring (the virus) in,” Donelan said. “We are the ones going out and mixing with the community.”

On Tuesday, there was one active COVID-19 case among the Franklin County jail population, Donelan said. The vaccinated detainee tested positive after his recent arrest and he is under quarantine in a segregated housing unit for COVID patients, Donelan said.

The CDC reported 316 new cases in Franklin County on Sunday, a 22.5% increase over the previous week, 15 new hospital admissions and a 6% test positivity rate; 66.5% of eligible people in the county are fully vaccinated.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.

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