Twenty-one inmates at the Faulkner County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19.
County officials moved to have all inmates and detention center employees tested for the novel coronavirus earlier this week after a group of nine men had tested positive.
Testing began after an inmate in the booking facility “exhibited symptoms of the virus last week,” county attorney Phil Murphy said.
After officials found out the inmate was COVID-19 positive, everyone who came into contact before he was isolated was also tested.
“The inmate was isolated and placed in a negative pressure cell and tested. Upon notice of the inmate’s positive test result, other inmates who were in contact with the infected inmate were also tested,” Murphy told the Log Cabin Democrat, adding that eight additional inmates tested positive for the coronavirus at this time. “The infected inmates are currently being sequestered in a separate segment of the detention center.”
Along with moving COVID-19-positive inmates to a separate portion of the jail, all other inmates within the general population were given face masks.
After the group of nine tested positive for COVID-19, Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office administrators moved to have all inmates and detention center staff tested.
As of Friday afternoon, a total of 21 (18 men and three women) had tested positive.
Another FCSO employee has also tested positive for the coronavirus. However, the county attorney said that employee did not come into contact with anyone at the jail and none of the other employees he came into contact with tested positive either.
“Both the employee and the Department of Health notified us of the positive test result. We, in turn, promptly notified any and all county employees who may have had a defined contact with the infected employee,” Murphy said. “Each of the possible contacts employed by Faulkner County who were tested received a negative test result.”
The county attorney said jail administrators would continue monitoring the situation and that they are working closely with Arkansas Department of Health officials for further guidance.
FCSO spokesman Erinn Stone said the jail staff is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent further spreading COVID-19 within FCDC.
“The positive cases have all been separated, [and] we are following the guidelines put in place by the CDC,” she said. “We have been in contact with our doctors and attorneys to make sure we are doing everything by the CDC guidelines.”
Since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, Murphy said that the FCSO has issued a number of protocols at both FCDC units including:
- An “enhanced” sanitation schedule that involves a thorough cleaning for all jail cells and communal areas.
- Conducting health screenings upon booking and also quarantining inmates in a booking facility for 14 days before the alleged offender is moved to a new cell in the general population. In addition to these procedures, Murphy said the sheriff’s office began using “step-down” facilities that “allow for an additional intermediary step between the booking cells and the transfer to the general inmate population.”
- All detention center employees that come into contact with COVID-19 positive inmates are required to wear N-95 masks, and face coverings are also utilized by all other detention center staff.
- The sheriff’s office has modified the ventilation system in its booking cells to feature a negative pressure system.
- In-person visitation is temporarily suspended.
Jail administrators have also worked to keep the inmate population down.
Cpt. Chris Riedmueller told the Log Cabin in May that inmate populations within the FCDC in April were at a 10-year low.
Though numbers were up from May, recently released statistics show that fewer people were detained in the Faulkner County jail in June from April’s numbers.
In June, there was an average of 87 inmates at Unit I, which is the county’s maximum security facility. Unit I has the capacity to hold 118 inmates and in recent years has struggled with overcrowding.
Officials said there was an average of 34 men and 37 women housed at Unit II last month. Unit II is able to hold 218 men and 88 women altogether.