The number of coronavirus cases increased by four to 37 in the Labette County Jail after last week’s testing. Two jailers have had the virus but no more jailers tested positive for the virus last week.
From Dec. 15 to Dec. 22, the number of virus cases increased from 12 to 33 in the jail population. The Dec. 29 testing showed four new positives. Only inmates and jail staff who previously tested negative for the virus are being tested each Tuesday.
One inmate died last Monday at the jail. The inmate had recently tested positive for the virus and had signed up to see medical staff on the day he died. A report on the cause of his death has not been released.
One inmate remains at Labette Health and is being treated for COVID-19. The inmate is on a medical furlough, which releases him from jail custody. Law enforcement still provides security checks at the hospital during his stay, however, according to Sheriff Darren Eichinger.
Eichinger said no visitors have been allowed and inmates have been confined to their cells since the outbreak in early December. Inmates with positive cases of the virus are kept together in two- to four-person cells.
Eichinger said the Labette County Jail implemented additional protocols in March when the pandemic began and have continued them.
New inmates are quarantined in a cell for 14 days before they are moved to the general population if they have no virus symptoms. The jail can hold more than 80 inmates and on Monday it had 55 inmates.
Employees have logged their temperatures at the beginning of each shift since the beginning of the pandemic and wear masks and gloves when interacting with inmates, Eichinger said. For a few months, visitors were barred. That restriction ended in the summer and fall months and returned in December.
Each shift at the jail uses a fogger to sanitize surfaces such as door handles and countertops, he said.
The federal COVID-19 relief program allowed the sheriff to install a negative air pressure room in the jail and a UV light system in the duct work throughout the building that kills viruses. The negative air pressure is to keep viruses from spreading outside of the room.
Inmate meals are now served on Styrofoam plates, Eichinger said.
Medical visits have increased with the company the jail pays to handle health care. A nurse is generally at the jail up to five days a week since the outbreak, he said.
A former jailer tested positive for the virus, but the test results were not known by jail administration until after the person left county employment, he said. This employee’s last shift was four days before the positive tests for two inmates were announced.
Jails in Neosho and Crawford counties have weathered the pandemic without a positive virus case so far. Montgomery County had one inmate test positive for the virus and require hospitalization, according to sheriffs in these counties. Cherokee County’s jail had two inmates test positive for the virus since the pandemic and neither required hospitalization, according to Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves.
Labette Sheriff Eichinger said he’s still not 100% sure how the virus got into the jail.
“I guess you could say it was our turn. I was hoping we would get through this without any,” Eichinger said.
He said the jail inmates and staff who previously tested negative for the virus will be retested each Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The jail, given its number of positive cases, is considered a cluster in Kansas, though KDHE has yet to include it on that list on its website.