FLINT — Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Genesee County Jail has reported its first cases of the virus among the inmate population.
As of Oct. 29, 14 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, with most appearing asymptomatic and only a few displaying mild COVID-19 symptoms. Inmates who have tested positive and displayed symptoms of the virus have been placed in quarantine for 14 days and are receiving medication.
Major David Stamm with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said that the jail’s first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed last Wednesday during a random test. After starting a round of rapid testing and contact tracing, jail staff confirmed 10 more positive cases and immediately began quarantining infected inmates.
Stamm said that rapid tests were offered to 270 inmates, with 178 refusing the test and 92 agreeing to take it. Seventy-eight inmates tested negative during rapid testing and 14 tested positive.
To contain the virus, jail staff moved symptomatic inmates into negative pressure rooms on the facility’s medical floor. The negative pressure cells are designed to contain air flow and circulate it directly out of the building, without allowing airflow to circulate from the cells into the rest of the complex.
Asymptomatic inmates are being quarantined on a different floor.
While some correctional facilities across the state have seen major outbreaks, Stamm said that rigorous health and safety protocols have prevented the virus from entering the Genesee County Jail throughout the spring and summer. He said that those same procedures are being used to keep current COVID-19 cases from spreading to the rest of the jail population.
“We took the COVID virus very seriously and kicked in our protocol of stringent cleaning, wearing face masks in the jail, washing our hands, checking temperatures and following CDC guidelines,” Stamm said. “We’ve also been working a lot with our healthcare partners and working to mitigate the virus wherever we can.”
Stamm said that all incoming inmates are offered COVID-19 tests when they first arrive at the jail and are quarantined for 14 days before they’re transferred into general population housing units. Inmates must also wear masks outside of their cells and must test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of leaving the jail.
Around 550 inmates are currently being lodged in the Genesee County Jail.