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Sept. 24, 2022

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Around 2 dozen inmates test positive for COVID-19 at the Clark County Jail

By , Columbian staff writer

About two dozen inmates in the Clark County Jail had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday morning.

Jail Chief Phil Sample said he did not yet have the exact number but that between 20 and 25 inmates had tested positive out of a facility population of about 340. That means about 7 percent of the inmate population has tested positive.

Sample said staff has isolated the pods with inmates who have tested positive and that medical staff is checking on them often, if not daily.

The case count Monday morning was the highest since Sample took over as jail chief in July, he said.

The jail saw an outbreak in the late fall of 2020, with 44 inmates testing positive for COVID-19 by early December. Larch Corrections Center near Yacolt also saw a large COVID-19 outbreak in late 2020, with more than 90 percent of the inmate population testing positive.

Clark County Jail inmates are screened for COVID-19 prior to being booked and wear masks, according to Sample. He said the facility has been following Clark County Public Health and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol.

No staff had tested positive as of Monday morning, Sample said, and jail staff do daily temperature checks when reporting for shifts.

Criminal justice officials have met several times during the pandemic to discuss the steps needed to prevent the jail population from getting the virus.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office worked with the courts and prosecutor’s office to develop a release strategy that would allow inmates considered an acceptable risk to return to their communities, limiting intake to the most serious offenders.

Prior to the pandemic, the average census varied from 590 to 630. Now, it averages 330 to 360 inmates. In recent months, the number has been slowly ticking upward, Sample told The Columbian last week.

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