Health officer: COVID-19 outbreak at Calhoun County jail is representative of virus' increased spread

Calhoun County Jail
Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-14 20:17:24-05

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — While Calhoun County is seeing unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases, the jail is seeing an outbreak as well.

According to the county sheriff, 24 inmates at the Calhoun County Jail remain positive for COVID-19, and all but two of them are asymptomatic.

Still, officials said it's representative of virus' increased spread.

The Calhoun County Jail is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19.

"What we are seeing happening in the community, we are seeing here," said the Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley.

Two dozen positive COVID-19 cases were identified at the jail among inmates, and two employees also tested positive.

"We are about 24-person outbreak was restricted to one geographic location within the facility, which we were able to isolate. We were able to work with the health department through that process," said Sheriff Hinkley.

That area, primarily housing ICE detainees who Sheriff Hinkley said are now receiving the appropriate medical attention.

There are also two additional positive, asymptomatic cases in the jail's intake quarantine area.

"When the police department brings an individual to the jail, that officer is not allowed inside the facility. We bring the individual in ourselves. That person is put into a 14-day quarantine area," said Sheriff Hinkley.

The sheriff said the jail also has strict cleaning protocols that they're following outlines by the CDC.

"Our professional staff now has taken on...well, first and foremost they have already taken on additional duties. Now they’re doing laundry, meal transportation and garbage service. So they are doing more and more things, so that we can get through this particular incident here at the facility," said Sheriff Hinkley.

In a meeting with Calhoun County officials, the County Public Health Department's Health Officer suggested what's happening in the jail is also happening in the community, expressing concern about the increase of cases.

"We told you about a surge two weeks ago and now my comment is I would not consider this a surge. This is an unprecedented spread of the virus in our community," said the Calhoun County Public Health Department Officer Eric Pessell.

To put that community spread in perspective, the health department said as of two weeks ago the county had seen just 1,700 cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March. In the past two weeks, they have reported around 900 new cases.