Dozens of quarantined inmates at the Danville City Jail are being closely monitored in case they develop serious symptoms after nearly 50 tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
"We have to do rounds twice an hour, every hour," Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said Sunday.
Whether more inmates — as well as employees — will be tested is up to the Virginia Department of Health, he said.
"We're trying to balance security ... with what's best practice from the experts," Mondul said.
A couple of staff at the jail have tested positive in the past when they got tested on their own, but not since the recent jail outbreak, he said.
In addition to a total of 255 inmates, the jail has about 50-60 employees, Mondul said.
After announcing last week that one inmate tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 49 were infected as of Saturday afternoon. Additional tests were administered Friday night for 63 inmates in three housing areas.
The outbreak at the jail prompted a mask-wearing mandate for facility workers.
Dr. Scott Spillmann, director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District, would not comment Sunday for this story.
"Sorry, but I cannot answer your questions today, but am happy to help during this coming week," Spillmann said via email Sunday.
Officials are checking temperatures of everyone entering the jail, Mondul said. As to how the virus got into the jail, he said he had an opinion about it but would not speculate on the record.
It was Wednesday when the sheriff’s office disclosed the first case at the jail, the same day authorities received confirmation of the positive test. On Friday, Mondul announced that within three housing units, 23 of out 25 inmates tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. That figure includes the first inmate who tested positive.
After the first inmate showed signs of the illness last week, the individual was placed in an isolated area for quarantine and was seen by the jail doctor.
It’s not clear how that first inmate, housed in the Danville City Jail since May 22, contracted the disease.
The jail has now instituted a face-covering policy for workers and issued masks to inmates.
The Danville City Jail has two campuses with inmates. The main jail, located below the courthouse in Danville, holds the majority of the inmates. Men and women are housed separately there. There’s also a jail annex in the same building as the Adult Detention Center — commonly known as the City Farm — that houses only women.
In addition to contacting other correction facilities to learn “best practices” for handling an outbreak, Mondul reported two more electrostatic sprayers — devices used to disinfect surfaces — have been purchased. The jail already had one such unit. Also, volunteer programs and inmate weekender programs have been suspended.
The jail is working with its doctor and medical staff that includes a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse and two emergency medical technicians. A specific area of the jail will house the COVID-19 cases, Mondul said Wednesday.
After announcing last week that one inmate tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 49 were infected as of Saturday afternoon.
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