Wednesday, June 23, 2021
June 23, 2021

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Confirmed COVID-19 cases rise to 25 at Clark County Jail

A total of 25 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:

A total of 25 inmates housed at the Clark County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon.

On Nov. 12, the jail announced that seven inmates and four corrections deputies tested positive for the disease. The next day, it reported that the number of positive cases among the inmate population had increased by five, after 52 inmates were tested.

The jail’s COVID-19 information line said Monday morning that 19 inmates had tested positive. Jail Chief Ric Bishop said in an email that the number of positive cases among inmates had climbed to 25 as of 1 p.m.

Bishop said there are now positive cases in different units of the jail. He did not specify how many units. Inmates who tested positive have been moved to medical isolation while those who had close contacts with positive cases were quarantined, he said.

“​We have added a second isolation area … and will add a third if needed. The designation of additional medical isolation housing units is part of our response plan as the surge continues,” Bishop said.

The jail chief said that he is continuing to consult with Clark County Public Health and is following its directions. In addition to the new medical and quarantine units as needed, the jail has purchased more COVID-19 testing kits and implemented the testing of all inmates before they’re housed with the general population.

All staff are required to wear N95 masks or higher when working with the inmate population, and the jail has taken the added step of “moving the remaining professional visitors to non-contact rooms.”

There are no new positive cases among jail staff. Previously, the jail reported that seven corrections deputies were also being quarantined, and two support staff members were tested and quarantined.

Criminal justice officials have met several times this year to discuss the inmate population at the jail and steps needed to prevent it from getting the virus.

Earlier this year, general criteria were established for the types of crimes and cases assessed for potential release into pretrial supervision. (The criteria includes nonviolent cases, such as drug and property crimes. No cases involving sex offenses are reviewed, and generally, no domestic violence cases meet the
criteria.)

In mid-March, the facility housed 313 inmates, a low not seen by Bishop since 1985.

The releases allowed the jail to avoid an outbreak, unlike other facilities nationwide, Bishop said. By Nov. 17, at least 197,659 people in prison had tested positive for COVID-19, an 8 percent increase from the week before, according to the Marshall Project.

The Clark County Jail’s total population fluctuated around 350 inmates for months, but over time, it started to creep back up. Sheriff Chuck Atkins said he noticed the population was climbing in August.

According to the jail’s inmate roster, there were 435 inmates housed at the facility Monday.

The sheriff’s office is in the process of filling positions left vacant since March. Once it has the employees, the current course of action calls for the use of the county’s Jail Work Center, a 100-bed, minimum-security facility that remains open but has not been used for housing for five months.

Bishop and other jail officials have a work session scheduled with the county Dec. 2 to discuss the work center’s possible use to spread out the inmate population, as well as other jail-related matters.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter
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