21 jail employees test positive for COVID-19


A total of 21 deputies at the Hamilton County Justice Center are currently quarantining after receiving positive COVID-19 test results, officials confirmed Wednesday evening.

That’s about 6.8% of the jail staff.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Dave Daugherty said all of the deputies who have tested positive are currently at home and resting in quarantine. 

Rising COVID-19 cases have been reported across the county, prompting Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to make an appearance at Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport last week.

“We must get control of this now,” DeWine said. “We’re running out of time.”

Hamilton County was one of 29 counties coded “red” for very high exposure and spread on last week’s state’s novel coronavirus heat map.

In April, two Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies who worked the same shift in the same area of the county jail tested positive for the new coronavirus. The jail’s first positive test was announced after a deputy reported symptoms on April 9.

Daugherty said he’s not sure if Wednesday’s 21 cases are the highest the jail has seen as far as employee cases go, but said it “seems high.”

“You have people coming inside the facility, you got people going over to court; it’s just hard to contain,” he said. “It’s difficult.”

Staffing issues rise with COVID-19 cases

Roughly 2.2% of inmates housed at the Justice Center have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning. Daugherty confirmed there are currently 27 infected inmates.

“We really don’t know how they (the deputies) got exposed, but it’s most likely from inside the facility,” Daugherty said.

Staffing levels are always short in the facility, Daugherty said, but especially so since the pandemic began. He said about 310 deputies work at the jail.

“It’s created a lot of overtime,” Daugherty said. “But we have a plan in place if it gets worse.”

In late March, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil reduced the jail population by releasing low-risk, nonviolent inmates who are not charged with sex crimes in response to the pandemic. There were approximately 800 inmates in the facility by late April, compared to the previous month’s more than 1,200 inmates.

On Wednesday, Daugherty confirmed the population at the Hamilton County Justice Center was back up to 1,205. All of those inmates are violent offenders, he said. But it’s up to judges to release offenders, ultimately.

“Our jail staff are working with the judges. The judges are aware of our population, and they’re aware of the spike,” Daugherty said.

Coronavirus precautions at the Justice Center

Daugherty says there are plenty of precautions at place at the Hamilton County Justice Center, including mask wearing, cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

A medical staff at the facility screens all inmates upon arrest, Daugherty said. Inmates are then isolated for seven days before being admitted to the general population.

In late September, officials announced inmates could visit with family and friends online via a new video system. The sheriff’s office partnered with Securus Technologies of Dallas, Texas to install more than 100 terminals in the jail’s visiting room for inmates to participate in the program.

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Wednesday November 2, 2022