COVID 19 exposure in Okanogan County Jail

The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office has been notified that 11 inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

OKANOGAN – On Dec. 8, 2020, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office was notified that 11 inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

Inmate tests were conducted on Dec. 3, 2020 in partnership with Okanogan County Public Health and Lifeline Ambulance, after an inmate developed COVID symptoms. Within that same timeframe, a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Sheriff Tony Hawley

Sheriff Tony Hawley

“The affected inmate was immediately isolated and quarantine protocols were initiated. Jail staff identified a total of 23 inmates from two separate living areas, who may have had contact with the affected individual or the staff member,” said Sheriff Tony Hawley. “Identified inmates were tested in an effort to isolate exposure to the fewest number of inmates and staff. Of the 23 tested, only one inmate who was symptom free when booked, has exhibited symptoms. The inmate developed symptoms within days of being booked.”

Since the late November exposure, there have been four jail staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Hawley. With coordination with Public Health, all were quarantined and tested immediately with remaining staff being screened for contact or exposure. Several additional staff members were identified as at risk for exposure and were also quarantined and tested. Two of the staff have returned to work after the proper time in quarantine.

Hawley said that since the COVID pandemic threat was identified in March 2020, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office has restricted the booking criteria for new arrests into the jail in an attempt to limit the risk of COVID outbreak inside. With assistance from the county Health Department, guidelines were developed to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure for inmates staff, and those they interact with in the criminal justice arena.

Guidelines include the exposure and symptom screening of all individuals who enter the jail facility including new arrestees, inmates, jail staff, and law enforcement. They also include the wearing of masks in the jail, providing masks to inmates to wear when out of their living area, sanitizing common areas, and not mixing inmates from different living areas for any activities outside of their living areas including court visits.

“Over the next few days, jail staff will be working diligently with Okanogan County Public Health and Lifeline Ambulance personnel to facilitate the testing of all remaining inmates in the jail. We expect to have those results jail within the week,” said Hawley. “Lastly, jail staff are working with Public Health in conducting contact tracing for those individuals recently released from the jail who may have been in contact with inmates who were positive for COVID-19. These individuals are encouraged to contact Okanogan County Public Health for further information.”