M.C. Jail 8-9-12_distantIn a response to several questions from WTCA, Marshall County Sheriff Matt Hassel responded about the outbreak of COVID-19 in the jail on Wednesday morning.

Hassel said, “Since the Emergency Declaration was issued for COVID-19 the jail has been operating under the CDC guidelines for residential treatment facilities. Basically the same as nursing homes and hospitals.”  The sheriff said two weeks ago they had an inmate that was going to have a procedure done at the hospital but needed to be COVID tested before the procedure. The inmate tested negative on the rapid test, had no symptoms but tested positive in the laboratory test.

Last week, using the rapid tests the jail had 8 inmates test positive.  As of Tuesday, December 29th, out of 177 inmates there are now 39 who have tested positive.  The sheriff said only one inmate is having mild symptoms.

The Sheriff’s Department had a teleconference Tuesday with Quality Correctional Care, the company that provides inmate health care services at the jail, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Marshall County Health Department.  The sheriff said they have implemented more stringent procedures for the inmates in an attempt to protect and treat them.

Details on the “stringent procedures” include having inmates on lockdown 23 hours a day.  All inmates have been provided masks and cleaning supplies are provided to the inmates to clean the cells and pods.  Sheriff Hassel said all incoming inmates are held for at least 10 days separate from general population.

The State Department of Health Strike Team was at the jail on Wednesday to test all the inmates. A total of 132 inmates were tested using the rapid tests.  Results are expected to be returned to the Sheriff and County Health Department later Wednesday evening or early Thursday.

The sheriff said has also met with the Prosecutor to see if they could implement a procedure that if a person is brought to jail for a minor misdemeanor charge, they could have them sign a promise to appear and release them.  He is still waiting on a response from the prosecutor.

County Public Health Nurse, Lisa Letsinger confirmed that the jail is and continues to report COVID-19 numbers to the Health Department.  County Health Officer, Dr. Byron Holm and Letzinger requested the State to assist them with the outbreak at the jail.

Letzinger had this to say about the sheriff’s statement, “Not sure what to say about this except that it is not totally factual information.  There have been way more symptomatic inmates and other issues not addressed in this response.  We are getting several complaints here regarding treatment at the jail from inmate’s families.”

Letsenger said in an email to WTCA, “The complaints we are getting from families is that the inmates are not receiving sick calls and or treatment after requesting to be seen.  I have passed all names provided to me onto the jail and or nursing staff.  The symptoms reported are classic COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, congestion, headache, body aches.”  The Strike Team is onsite testing today, Wednesday, at the jail.  Once the tests are resulted we will have a better idea what exactly is going on in the facility.”

When asked if Jail employees were tested on Wednesday, Sheriff Hassel said, “No we haven’t started testing the employees yet but are planning to start tomorrow.  I have had a total of 5 employees test positive for COVID. All are back to work and symptom free.”

WTCA will continue to update citizens on the COVID-19 outbreak at the jail, the actions being taken and the results of the rapid tests.