Sheriff: 79 Kenosha County inmates, 18 staff tested positive for COVID-19

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KENOSHA COUNTY -- Kenosha County sheriff's officials on Thursday, April 30 announced 79 inmates at the Kenosha County Detention Center and Kenosha County Jail tested positive for COVID-19, along with five employees. That's in addition to 13 employees that previously tested positive. Thursday's announcement followed testing of approximately 420 inmates and 250 employees over two days, with help from the Wisconsin National Guard.

Sheriff David Beth has given his employees personal protective equipment, they're cleaning inmate areas around five times a day and inmates were given masks. Still, one out of every five inmates has tested positive for COVID-19.

Kenosha County Detention Center

Kenosha County Detention Center

Sheriff Beth also worked with other law enforcement agencies and judges to reduce the jail population by 50% in less than two months -- letting inmates with a $500 bond or less go, and placing others on probation.

While that has helped to maintain social distancing in a confined space, Sheriff Beth said the results of the testing were disappointing -- given those efforts to mitigate the spread.

"We thought, and I still think we've done a really good job here," said Sheriff Beth. "It's just showing me how contagious this virus is."

The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department does have nurses on staff, available around the clock. As of Thursday, Sheriff Beth said those who are sick have mild symptoms, or none at all.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth

A news release from the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department Thursday said:

"The health of our employees and the responsibility to take care of hundreds of inmates within our care is always a concern for Sheriff David Beth. The confined areas at the Kenosha County Jail and the Kenosha County Detention Center present challenges when it comes to mitigation and elimination of the spread of illness or disease and COVID-19 is no exception.  This proactive testing is a step to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Previously established departmental policies and procedures relating to transmission-based illness precautions have been immediately implemented and the identified inmates have been placed into isolation dorms.  The department employees have been notified and placed on quarantine.  The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department early on has made operational changes to the Kenosha County Jail and Kenosha County Detention Center to help slow the spread of COVID-19."

These changes include:

  • The department is working with other law enforcement agencies to reduce the number of people being brought into the jail.
  • Face-to-face conferences between defendants, attorneys, and support staff were shifted from personal meetings in the same room to phone conferences or meetings through glass partitions using phones.
  • People who are newly housed at the jail are being housed in a separate area.
  • Eliminated all unnecessary inmate movement.
  • A medical isolation dorm has been created for inmates that are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19.
  • Inmates are being provided with masks.
  • Corrections staff are required to wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves and our inmate population from the spread of COVID-19.
  • Preventive cleaning within each facility continues throughout the day using medical-grade disinfectants.
  • Electronic monitoring was increased to allow eligible inmates to be released from jail to limit the inmate population.

Health officials noted in a news release Monday, April 27 one inmate and one employee tested positive at the Kenosha County Pretrial Facility.

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