The Boone County Sheriff’s office reported Friday that 17 Boone County Jail detainees had tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Friday afternoon, all 17 were either asymptomatic or experiencing only mild symptoms, said Public Information Officer Capt. Brian Leer.
The first positive case was identified Jan. 3. This was the first COVID-19 case within the jail’s general population, Leer said.
“Now, we’re also not naive to believe that there is a possibility that somebody asymptomatic could have been in and out of the jail,” Leer said.
Through close contact tracing, the department and health officials found a total of 19 detainees that had been exposed. More than 160 people have been tested since the first case was identified, Leer said.
Leer compared the jail’s quarantine and isolation process to a personal residence. The jail is made up of housing units. Once positive cases and exposures are identified within a housing unit, detainees typically remain in that unit.
“The people also living there with them would naturally already be exposed, which is the reasoning for keeping them all together, so that the exposure to COVID doesn’t spread outside the housing unit,” Leer said. “So that’s how some individuals would come to be quarantined alongside people in isolation.”
However, if a positive or symptomatic case is identified before the other housing units members are exposed, that detainee would be tested and placed in isolation, Leer said.
Lisa Davis, mother of inmate Deante Wilder, said her son has had headaches for the past month. Davis said Wilder’s headaches began after a symptomatic inmate was added to his housing unit.
Wilder was tested for COVID-19 earlier this week and was placed in isolation Friday morning, Davis said.
Davis heard Wilder had been placed in isolation from an inmate in his housing unit, she said. She said she talked to Wilder on the phone Saturday, and he told her the 17 inmates with COVID-19 have been placed “in separate pods.”
Leer declined to discuss this specific case, citing that he could not give any details about specific detainees and their health or location. He did say there are administrative and disciplinary reasons that a detainee may be placed in isolation.
Department officials encourage detainees to wear masks, wash their hands and social distance from each other, especially if they are in quarantine or isolation within their housing unit.
All inmates have their temperature checked twice a day. They are each given a mask and have cleaning supplies, soap and hand sanitizer available for no charge. Prior to the pandemic, inmates had to pay for these items.
Because of COVID-19, the department has prohibited general public visitation to avoid exposure. Detainees may make calls free of charge, write letters and visit with their attorneys, Leer said.
Inmates experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to report their symptoms immediately. Before Jan. 3, COVID-19 tests for inmates with symptoms had come back negative.
Jail employees undergo COVID-19 screening each time they enter or exit the jail. If they are symptomatic, they’re told to get tested and not come into work.
As of Friday afternoon, four jail employees were currently off work due to testing positive for COVID-19.