31 inmates, 5 staff including the sheriff test positive.
OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. – Like others across the four-states, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is doing what they can to keep COVID-19 out of the jail. The normally screen each suspect before they are booked, and require a quarantine period for new inmates before they are released into general population.
But toward the end of August, one fell through the cracks.
“We actually took him to the emergency room for a non-COVID related medical reason, and they went ahead and tested him, and of course sent us the results about a week later that said he was positive,” says Sheriff Jeremy Floyd. “The bad thing to that is we had actually transferred that inmate to another facility, prior to getting the test results.”
Floyd explains that the inmate had been in quarantine since being booked into the jail, and had minimal contact with other people or jail staff.
But after that inmate tested positive, they began doing more widespread testing, with the Ottawa County Health Department testing everyone at the facility just last week. The testing over the last few weeks has brought forth multiple positive results, including Floyd.
“In the last few weeks, out of those test results we’ve had 31 come back positive, and five staff members come back positive,” says Floyd.
He says no one that tested positive was or is exhibiting any symptoms, which he says makes it difficult to know who may be an asymptomatic carrier before booking them into the jail.
And now, the state has put the jail on lockdown. The state health commissioner has issued a quarantine order for the jail, saying that no inmates can be transferred to the department of corrections, and no one can be booked into the jail, until the health commissioner lifts the order.
That also means that some offenses that may normally warrant an arrest are being handled with citations and court dates.
“Right now we’re just basically citing and releasing and give them a court date. Like I said, it all depends on the crime that they’ve committed,” explains Floyd.
If they have committed a major crime or felony, then they are arrested and sent to a different facility.
The Ottawa County Health Department is helping the jails medical service contractor with mitigation strategies, to take care of the inmates and make sure no one else becomes infected. Floyd is working from home during his isolation period, with the undersheriff handling things in person. And deputies are working to keep the community safe.
“We’re gonna continue to be proactive and enforce the laws of course, and take care of people. That’s our number one goal.”
There are currently 81 total inmates at the jail.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there have been 819 total cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa County.