GREENE COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - The Greene County Detention Center reported its first COVID-19 outbreak on Saturday.
According to Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon, there are 60 active cases at the jail.
Sheriff Steve Franks and Jail Administrator Brent Cox confirmed in a Monday news release that “20% of the jail population tested positive. Of that, 99.9% are non-symptomatic.”
Of the 66 positive cases, the majority are the inmate population, and “handful” are employees.
Franks said an inmate began displaying signs and symptoms of COVID-19 on Tuesday, July 28.
“We immediately contacted the health department and had that individual tested,” Franks said.
The test results, he said, returned positive for the coronavirus.
On Thursday, July 30, Franks said they tested all of the inmates and employees. They received the results on Saturday, Aug. 2, which showed 20 percent of the inmate population had tested positive for COVID-19.
“All positive inmates are being housed together and being closely monitored by our medical staff,” Franks said. “All inmates that tested negative have been isolated [separately] from the positive cases.”
Cox added the positive inmates are being housed separately from the healthy inmates.
Franks added that in addition to inmates and employees wearing masks, the jail has limited outside contact to the facility to just employees, and they are limiting the number of new inmates they are accepting.
Cox said inmates wear masks outside of their holding area per regulations from the CDC and the Arkansas Health Department.
The sheriff added that they are taking extra precautions to reduce the spread of the vaccine.
“Upon the initial national outbreak of the COVID virus, we began cleaning our facility 3 times a day and utilizing a fog machine that kills 99.9% of viruses including COVID and flu,” he said.
McMillon said in a post on Facebook the sheriff, jail administrator, and all staff has done a wonderful job at keeping the jail COVID-19 free.
“It is and has been an immense challenge,” McMillon stated. “We are hopeful to minimize the outbreak and are working with our inmate healthcare provider to implement protective measures [through] quarantine and isolation.”
The detention center will not allow new inmates to enter and have stopped transporting inmates.
“We will not be releasing inmates simply because they tested positive,” Cox said. “The inmates are in here for a reason either been charged or waiting on their sentences, so we are going to continue to house the inmates as we have been.”
An inmate inside the jail, Robby Lutz, said he wants to see more done.
“Masks available, sanitizer, and cleaning disinfectant on a daily basis. We’d like to have our medical needs tended to without being charged for it,” he said. “We didn’t bring this. Somebody brought this. It’s the jail’s responsibility to catch this stuff before it becomes an epidemic but they had absolutely not one policy or procedure in place to even do it. It was like they were pretending it didn’t exist.”
In a followup to the interview, Cox reiterated masks are required outside of their holding area. The inmates are provided with cleaning supplies and seek free COVID-19 treatment.
Medical payment is required for inmates with non-related COVID-19 symptoms.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported an increase of 66 new cases on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Aug. 4, Sheriff Steve Franks shared an update on Facebook, stating that Tuesday was the third day of being symptom-free.