First coronavirus cases reported in the Genesee County Jail

11 of 562 inmates test positive, but staff believes the situation is contained
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Seven months after the coronavirus pandemic began, the Genesee County Jail is seeing it’s first confirmed cases of the illness.

Sheriff Chris Swanson said 11 of the 562 inmates in the jail have tested positive as of Wednesday afternoon. The inmates are in quarantine inside the jail and only a few are showing symptoms.

Swanson earlier said COVID-19 would spread like wildfire if it got into the jail, but so far staff members believe the illness is contained.

Major David Stamm of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said the positive COVID-19 cases in the jail were inevitable, but jail staff has been prepared. He credits their new rapid testing system from the state with helping their efforts to stop the spread.

“It’s been huge for us in order to do our job to keep this facility safe,” Stamm said. “It gives us an early warning system, if you will, that we have something coming and that we can take the appropriate action.”

The rapid testing system provides COVID-19 test results in just 15 to 20 minutes. Stamm said it’s used every time someone new enters the Genesee County Jail and the sheriff’s office also conducts random tests, which inmates can refuse.

Jail staff learned of the positive tests last week while administering a random test.

“We kicked in our plans and we had them go up to medical to make sure that they get the appropriate attention,” Stamm said. “They put upstairs into the negative pressure room so they can be monitored. So we don’t have that contamination, cross contamination within the facility.”

He said no airflow comes out of the negative pressure cell into the rest of the jail. The air goes directly out of the building instead.

Contact tracing efforts began while the inmate was in the negative pressure cell. Working with the Genesee County Health Department, staff members identified at least 70 other inmates who came in close contact with the positive inmate and all of them were tested.

Only 10 of the 70 close contacts tested positive for COVID-19. Stamm said four inmates have mild symptoms and are receiving medication in the negative pressure cell while the seven asymptomatic inmates are quarantined on a specific floor.

Besides the testing system, Stamm said their added health and safety protocols kept the nearly 500 other inmates from contracting the virus too.

“The staff did a wonderful job. They’re the ones that should get all the kudos,” he said.

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