Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde reports the COVID19 cases at the Bonneville County Jail. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS – Almost every prisoner in a single compartment at the Bonneville County Jail tests positive for COVID-19.
Bonneville County Sheriff Paul J. Wilde made the announcement Wednesday at a press conference. Wilde said last week one inmate was not feeling well and asked to be examined.
The medical staff performed the test and on Friday a laboratory returned a positive result for coronavirus. Everyone in his team was examined on Monday and of the 35 inmates detained in the unit, 34 received a positive result on Tuesday night.
“Procedures for keeping that particular housing unit isolated and as much as possible to reduce pollution from other parts of the prison,” Wilde said.
Prison staff reported that inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 said they had no symptoms.
Prison doctor Jeff Keller said by following CDC prisons guidelines, staff members hope to prevent new cases from getting inside.
Each prisoner at the time of booking is given a number of people questionnaires to determine their potential exposure to the virus. Inmates were then quarantined for 14 days in another part of the prison before being transferred to the prison, Keller explained.
“We have provided additional toiletries and masks for all inmates,” said Keller. “Prisoners are not required to wear masks in the dormitory, but they are required to wear them outside the dormitory.”
Prisoners at prison are not the only ones who test positive for COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, three prison staff have tested positive for the virus. These employees were isolated and did not come to work, Wilde said.
“Everyone was wearing masks in the facility and everyone was trying to do everything they could,” said Wilde. “They did all the precautions and cleanup they could.”
Wilde said the Sheriff’s Office does its best to protect everyone in detention and that the prison staff are well equipped and prepared for the pandemic.
Wilde said: “The prison is not Marriot. “It is a prison, but our prison is taken care of. We maintain it. We made sure there was a medical staff to look after our prisoners. All lies about how bad it is to be eliminated and know that the prisoners in the Bonneville County Prison are carefully cared for.
While the staff at the prison said they were doing everything they could to prevent the spread of COVID-19, at least one inmate was still worried. Skylar Briggs spent less than 24 hours in prison before being released on Tuesday.
“Immediately when I walked in, everyone seemed to be coughing,” said Briggs. “I’m really worried about myself because I’m in it.”
Briggs says seeing how staff members move from unit to unit worries him.
“I don’t want to arrest him,” said Briggs. “I feel like everyone around me is sick. … I hope they can control it and I hope they can better treat prisoners and be able to provide drugs that can help reduce their symptoms.
When inmates tested positive for COVID-19, medical staff provided ibuprofen and acetaminophen to control symptoms, Keller said.
East Idaho Community Health Public Health Director Jame Corbett said Tuesday night cases were not counted toward the Bonneville County total. When actual reports from the testing are received by the EIPH, numbers are added.
“This is isolated,” Corbett said. “Concentrated facilities, especially not long-term care, but prisons or prisons, are not counted in the active case rate.”
For situations that are not counted as active, the number of prisoners will not affect the threshold number established by the EIPH. The threshold numbers determine what stage the seed is at. Now, with the number of cases that Bonneville County has maintained for three days, health officials have classified the area as medium risk or yellow.
Wilde said that while the prisoners were ill, they took the situation seriously and the deputy detainees were concerned.
“It wouldn’t be like mom looking after you when you have the flu,” Wilde said. “But we have a very good team of medical professionals … and they will take good care of the inmates in our custody.”