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UPDATE: Two Dane County Jail inmates test positive for COVID-19

UPDATE: Two Dane County Jail inmates test positive for COVID-19

Public Safety Building (copy)

Medical staff at the Dane County Jail are coordinating testing of eight inmates with fevers for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Update: Two of the eight men in quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office is waiting for the results of other tests, and may test more inmates for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"Jail and medical staff will continue to follow protocols consistent with recommendations from Public Health and the CDC," according to the sheriff's office. "Deputies are being vigilant in identifying anyone displaying symptoms and alerting medical staff immediately."

Eight male inmates in the Dane County Jail are quarantined in segregation cells in the downtown Public Safety Building after coming down with fevers, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office reported Thursday.

Medical staff at the jail are coordinating testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Our jail nursing staff has a small number of tests available to them,” said Elise Schaffer, spokesperson for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. “Anything beyond that we would be looking for support from local hospitals to help us.”

An additional nine inmates who had been in contact with those in quarantine have been removed from the general population and are being housed in a dormitory in the Public Safety Building, 115 W. Doty St. These men are not currently exhibiting symptoms.

Schaffer said the jail has a detailed, step-by-step process for housing inmates who may become sick with COVID-19. A plan was in place prior to the pandemic but was refined as the virus closed in on Dane County.

“Right now we’re talking about small numbers,” Schaffer said. “If that were to become larger numbers, we would do some rearranging.”

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The Dane County Jail, which consists of three facilities, does not have an infirmary and lacks 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.

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. As of Thursday, the jail population across all three facilities is 549 — a lower number that allows staff to move inmates around as needed.

In comparison, the jail population was 746 on March 10. The jail is considered full when 789 inmates are housed in the county's facilities, Schaffer said. 

As of Wednesday, the sheriff’s office had 74 inmates at home on GPS monitoring.

Sheriff Dave Mahoney is “committed to getting as many inmates as possible released from the jail to minimize the risk of COVID-19 to inmates and staff,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

There are 20 segregation cells in the Public Safety Building and 24 segregation cells 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.

Schaffer said the Ferris Center, which can house 144 inmates, could be used for additional quarantine space, if needed. 

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The inmates with fevers were already being housed in the jail and not recently admitted from the community, Schaffer said. Deputies and jail medical staff are continuing to monitor all inmates in the jail for illness.

The jail is sanitizing some areas, including the laundry, recreational area and kitchen, with Skytron UV emitters. These devices are typically used in medical settings and release germ deactivating ultraviolety ray energy that clean air and surfaces.

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