As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Campbell County, it recently made its first appearance in the county jail.
One inmate has tested positive for COVID-19 and another was tested and is awaiting test results as of Tuesday, said Capt. Kevin Theis.
“We had none until this last week, we finally had one positive test,” Theis said. “We had a guy complaining of some symptoms and he requested a test, so we took him to get tested and his results came back positive.”
He said the inmate mentioned symptoms Thursday, at which point he was brought to an isolation cell within the jail, Theis said. There are two such cells, each with separate ventilation systems.
On Friday, he was taken to the hospital for a test and the result came back positive this week.
Theis said it is unclear how the inmate contracted the virus because he had been in the jail for about 30 days.
“Potentially, he had an attorney visit or something," he said. "No one else in the housing unit has complained of any symptoms."
There have been employees out from COVID-19 or quarantine, but “nothing to a detrimental effect at this time,” Theis said.
Sheriff Scott Matheney said that between detention officers and the deputies, about six have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Many others have been exposed and had to quarantine through contact tracing, which has been a more significant hit to staffing.
Employees at the jail are not required to wear masks, but may do so if they choose, Theis said.
Inmates wear masks when preparing food in the kitchen or in a situation where they may be presenting symptoms, but otherwise do not have access to masks. Theis said that he is working with the jail’s commissary provider so inmates can buy cloth masks. The popular N95 masks have a metal strip that, because of its potential misuse, inmates are not permitted to have.
“We’ve got to be very careful about what we allow into the cell blocks to be converted into some other use that could cause harm or danger to our officers,” Theis said.
Because inmates are essentially quarantined within the jail, Theis said some have expressed concern about the detention center employees coming and going each day, potentially exposing the jail population to the virus.
“So to counter their concerns about our staff going out and coming back in each day, we have the same thing,” Theis said. “We’re exposed to everything that’s brought in that back door to our book-in sally, wherever they’ve been and what they’re bringing in with them, we’re just as exposed as the inmates are daily.”
There have been about 160 to 165 inmates in the jail at a given time recently, although that number fluctuates daily. Theis said there are two empty cell blocks that, if needed, could be used to separate inmates if more cases are confirmed in the jail.
However, Theis said he is confident in how the jail has responded to the pandemic to this point, having gone until this week without a positive COVID-19 inmate.
“Complacency is always the enemy,” Theis said. “We just make sure we continue to remind our employees to do the best they can to keep their areas clean, maintaining the social distance requirements and if they are sick, stay home.”