Nearly six percent of inmates tested for the new coronavirus at the Orange County Jail over the past few days were positive for COVID-19, Mayor Jerry Demings said Thursday.
The county received the results of 529 new COVID-19 tests of inmates Wednesday, 33 of which came back positive, Demings told reporters during an afternoon pandemic briefing. Only one inmate who tested positive was symptomatic, he said.
By the time of the briefing, four inmates who tested positive had already been released back into the community, Demings said.
“Because this is a local jail, the overwhelming majority of individuals who are booked in our jail are only there for short periods of time,” he said.
The tests had been taken “over a series of days,” and the jail is awaiting the results of 150 more tests, Demings said. To date, over 2800 COVID-19 tests have been conducted on inmates at the facility.
As of Thursday, the jail had over 2100 inmates in custody, Demings said, and administrators aim to finish testing the population in custody by next week.
All newly arrested inmates are given the option of being tested for the coronarivus.
During Thursday’s briefing, Chief of Corrections Louis Quiñones said the jail’s management team formed an “action plan” in response to the pandemic based on CDC guidelines on how to curb the virus’ spread within a detention facility.
He said a screening questionnaire has been added to the booking process that includes asking inmates whether they’ve traveled recently and or have tested positive for the virus. Then inmates are placed in a “quarantine housing unit” for 14 to 30 days before joining the general population.
In addition, anyone entering the facility goes through a temperature check, he said.
The jail has taken other precautions to curb the spread of the virus, including placing signage throughout the facility encouraging social distancing, making more PPE available for staff, providing face masks for staff and inmates and suspending visits from non-essential visitors, officials have said.
Additionally, the jail has purchased an Aeroclave machine to disinfect the facility’s airflow as part of a “preventive maintenance plan,” he said.
With the Department of Health’s assistance, the Orange County Jail has started a contact tracing process to determine the origins of positive cases within the facility and identify their spread, Quiñones said.
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