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UPDATED: As Danville City Jail outbreak widens to 49 inmates, mask policy instituted

UPDATED: As Danville City Jail outbreak widens to 49 inmates, mask policy instituted

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A cell at the Danville City Jail is shown in this January 2017 file photo.

A widening COVID-19 outbreak at the Danville City Jail has prompted a mask-wearing mandate for facility workers.

After announcing earlier this week that one inmate tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 49 were infected as of Saturday afternoon, Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said.

Additional tests were administered Friday night for 63 inmates in three housing areas, Modul reported. 

It’s not clear if there will be a facility-wide test for all 255 current inmates and the employees who work there.

“That is a question we have asked the Health Department,” Mondul wrote in an email to the Register & Bee. “We are relying on their expertise and response.”

Health department officials did not immediately respond to questions from the Register & Bee.

It was Wednesday when the sheriff’s office disclosed the first case at the jail, the same day authorities received confirmation of the positive test. On Friday, Mondul announced that within three housing units, 23 of out 25 inmates tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. That figure includes the first inmate who tested positive.

“None of the inmates who have tested positive have significant symptoms at this point,” Mondul said.

After the first inmate shows signs of the illness earlier this week, the individual was placed in an isolated area for quarantine and was seen by the jail doctor.

By Wednesday morning, that inmate’s temperature was normal and “overall seems to be doing well according to our medical staff,” Mondul wrote in a statement.

It’s not clear how that first inmate, housed in the Danville City Jail since May 22, contracted the disease.

The jail has now instituted a face-covering policy for workers and issued masks to inmates. Earlier this week, Mondul confirmed that not all jail employees wore masks but said, “They will when entering the quarantined area.”

When asked why there wasn’t a mask policy before now, Mondul told the Register & Bee there were no issues before Wednesday.

“We had a mask policy, but the wearing of masks was not mandatory,” Mondul wrote in an email Saturday. “No issue, no masks.”

The sheriff explained there are two campuses with inmates. The main jail, located below the courthouse in Danville, holds the majority of the inmates. Men and women are housed separately there. There’s also a jail annex in the same building as the Adult Detention Center — commonly known as the City Farm — that houses only women.

In addition to contacting other correction facilities to learn “best practices” for handling an outbreak, Mondul reported two more electrostatic sprayers — devices used to disinfect surfaces — have been purchased. The jail already had one such unit. Also, volunteer programs and inmate weekender programs have been suspended.

The jail is working with its doctor and medical staff that includes a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse and two emergency medical technicians. A specific area of the jail will house the COVID-19 cases, Mondul said Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office performs temperature checks of everyone entering the building, including the jail.

“We ask all new people entering the jail the standard COVID questions about international travel, advised to quarantine, been around anyone who had a fever, etc.,” Mondul wrote in the email to the newspaper on Wednesday.

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