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183 inmates test positive for coronavirus at Idaho jail

| August 7, 2020 12:27 PM

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — More than 180 inmates at an Idaho county jail have tested positive for the coronavirus since July.

The Twin Falls County Jail said that a total of 183 of its inmates have tested positive since July, The Times-News reported Friday.

As of Friday, there were 81 inmates in quarantine. Medical staff reported that a maximum of 10 inmates have shown symptoms on a single day. Those who do exhibit symptoms are isolated from the rest of the jail population.

One male inmate was sent to the emergency room last week after becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. That man was later released.

Eight jail staff members tested positive for the virus. No staff members have shown symptoms and one is still in quarantine. Jail staff who tested positive for the virus continued to work during the outbreak.

Jail Cpt. Doug Hughes said that more than 90% of the 183 inmates who tested positive are asymptomatic. He said that everyone in the facility is monitored for symptoms and given a temperature check every day.

South Central Public Health District spokesperson Brianna Bodily said it is uncommon that the figure for asymptomatic cases is so high. Jail officials conduct their own disease investigations and report their own results to the health district, she said.

The jail facility is meant for 194 inmates but currently houses 266. Extra inmates are forced to sleep on the floor.

The overcrowding has made isolating positive cases complicated. When initial testing results started to come in, officials said they were unable to isolate positive asymptomatic cases from negative cases.

“I am proud of how our administration, detention and medical staff have handled this situation thus far,” Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter said in a statement. “Considering our limitations for space, and the enclosed atmosphere, I don’t know how we could have responded any differently.”

Twin Falls County prosecutor Grant Loebs said his office is reviewing the sentences of some non-violent inmates in the jail. Loebs said none have been identified for release as of Friday.

“We are doing everything we can to try to help the sheriff reduce the population without any threat to the community,” Loebs said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.