Following agency wide testing at the Dane County Jail that concluded April 27, seven additional positive cases of the coronavirus were discovered among inmates and staff.
Currently, a total of 29 inmates and seven Dane County Sheriff’s Office employees have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office requested all staff and inmates be tested April 20 for the virus following a spate of new cases. The National Guard WING Mobile Specimen Collection Team conducted the testing over a four-day period from April 24-27. Exact Sciences of Madison processed the tests.
Of the 427 inmates tested, six new cases were discovered. Three of the inmates have been released, one has recovered and 25 are in isolation. Dane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Elise Schaffer said some are housed in a pod within the Public Safety Building and some are in segregation cells.
The jail is spread across three facilities: the downtown City-County and Public Safety buildings and the work-release Ferris Center near the Alliant Energy Center.
None of the facilities have an infirmary and there are no medical beds. Addressing medical and mental health care of inmates and minimizing solitary confinement have been driving factors in plans for a $148 million jail renovation project.
There are 20 segregation cells in the Public Safety Building and 24 in the City-County Building, the oldest part of the jail that consultants recommended in 2016 be shut down with “due haste” because of the outdated conditions.
Previously, Schaffer said the Ferris Center, which can house 144 inmates and is used primarily for work-release inmates, could be used for additional quarantine space, if needed.
Of the 586 employees tested, one person was diagnosed with COVID-19. That employee was asymptomatic and isolated at home.
In an April 24 call with the National Association of Counties, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said he was surprised by the few cases of asymptomatic individuals.
“I believe we have successfully controlled the infection of COVID virus,” Mahoney said on the call.
Since the pandemic took hold in the county, Mahoney has taken steps to reduce the jail population by releasing inmates on GPS monitoring.
As of Wednesday, there were 453 people housed in the jail, Schaffer said. The jail is considered full when 789 inmates are housed in the county's facilities.
“We continue to provide a safe housing environment,” Mahoney said. “We’ve accomplished that through social distancing, by providing personal protective equipment to each individual — both staff and those who are incarcerated — by selecting housing based upon potential for infection for COVID-19 virus.”
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