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COVID-19 cases continue to rise at county jail

Times Observer file photo County officials continue to respond to increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the Warren County Jail. Approximately 60 inmates and 13 staff have tested positive for the virus.

COVID-19 cases in the Warren County Jail continue to rise.

About 60 percent of the inmates — in addition to 13 staff — have tested positive for the virus. That was part of an update given by Warden Jon Collins to the Prison Board during a meeting this week.

“COVID is in there,” he said. “We all anticipated it. (I) just didn’t think it would hit as hard as it did as quickly as it did.”

Collins explained an additional seven positive tests came back on Monday, bringing the total to 14 female inmates, 46 male inmates and 13 staff.

“We have no housing units in the green,” he said, which would indicate normal operations, though one is planned to return to that status in a few days.

Collins said one inmate was taken to the hospital and returned to the jail on oxygen and placed in an isolation cell for two days. “He got a lot better quick,” he said, telling the board that another may be put on oxygen.

“We’re not being hit as bad as what we could be.”

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin asked if “most of them are over the hump at this point.”

“Yes,” Collins said, speculating a return to normal operations by Thanksgiving or very early December.

He said law enforcement, probation and the courts are “not bring us a whole lot of new commitments,” only serious crimes and warrants.

He said there about 100 inmates in the jail currently.

District Attorney Rob Greene asked if this has impacted the ability for inmates sentenced to state prison actually getting to state prison and Collins said it has. There were 13 waiting for transport and there are now nine.

“The test that we gave in house, they weren’t good enough for the state,” he explained. Two transports of five inmates each were made and the state only accepted four of the inmates. “It’s difficult,” he said.

Collins detailed that the county’s infectious disease nurse, Jonie Smitley, is meeting with the inmates and staff, providing information and answering questions.

“She’s doing a fantastic job,” he said. “She’s been very, very, very helpful.”

He also credited Public Safety Director Ken McCorrison for support during this time.

From a staffing perspective, Collins siad “almost half of our staff have been affected (and) have been through quarantine.” That alleviates some of the staffing concerns. “We’re not going to get hard like we did the first time” if more staff become ill.

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