CLAYTON, Mo. — Nine inmates and one employee at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton have tested positive for COVID-19, county health officials said Thursday.
Last week, an inmate tested positive for the virus during a routine screening and was then transferred to the jail’s COVID unit. The person began exhibiting symptoms.
The county’s health department tested inmates and employees who had contact with the individual. As a result, eight other inmates tested positive and were asymptomatic. One employee tested positive and has experienced symptoms.
Other people have been tested and those results are pending. Health officials did not say how many other people have been tested.
Health officials said they do not know the source of the outbreak, but they are performing contact tracing and case investigations.
The health department has conducted more than 3,000 COVID-19 tests at the jail since the pandemic began. Of those tests, 37 inmates and 24 employees have tested positive.
Until 10 positive cases were identified, the jail had detected no evidence of transmission of the virus within the facility, health officials said. All previous cases were traced to transmission that occurred before an individual entered the facility.
“We work very hard to minimize any chance of COVID-19 transmission inside the facility,” said Spring Schmidt, co-director of the St Louis County Department of Public Health. “Unfortunately, the virus is in our community and we cannot control every point of contact that employees and patients have with the outside world.”
The chief operating officer of corrections medicine for the health department said the jail was working to keep close contacts of the patients away from the rest of the jail population. The jail is currently housing 867 inmates; the capacity is 1,232.
Officials said this was the first evidence of transmission of the disease within the facility.