On Tuesday night, the administrator of the Black Hawk County Jail, Captain Nathan Neff, issued a news release regarding the current situation in the Black Hawk County Jail.
“With the revelation that four prisoners have recently tested positive for Covid-19, many in the public have understandably expressed concern about the conditions at Black Hawk County Jail and the steps taken to protect prisoners. Unfortunately, there are some incomplete and / or or spreading misinformation that contributes to this anxiety.In an attempt to help alleviate some of the public̵7;s concerns, I would like to highlight some of the steps we have taken to keep the prison safe.
In March, we began checking all new detainees as they entered prison and quarantining those who showed symptoms or answered screening questions. Employee temperatures began to be measured both at the beginning and at the end of each shift. By April, we had begun quarantining every detainee who went to prison for 14 days. All staff and prisoners who were in the area of the prison entrance or in the quarantine area of the prison were required to wear masks.
Cloth masks were given (and continue to be given) to each prisoner and staff member, and each was given the opportunity to wear them after the end of the quarantine period. Based on the guidelines that contact with another person does not constitute exposure unless you are within six feet of another person for 15 minutes, neither staff nor prisoners have been required to wear masks outside the aforementioned areas, as this type close, prolonged contact rarely, if at all, happens there. In essence, staff and prisoners are socially distant from each other.
This system proved to be very effective, with 3,066 people enrolled in prison between March 1 and October 27. The daily population during this time ranged from 111 to 270, currently sitting at 243. There are no inmates with a positive Covid-19 test until recently. Although four positive prisoners are a very small percentage of our population, we felt it was best to increase our safety protocols to keep the prison population as safe as possible. That is why all staff and prisoners are now required to wear masks, even when they are socially distant from each other, and why we have introduced ‘mobile locks’.
During this pandemic, the sheriff’s office worked with the Black Hawk County Health Department and Naphcare, a prison health care provider, to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible while preserving inmates’ rights. The public can rest assured that we will continue to do so as we move forward. “
Captain Nathan Neff
Black Hawk County Sheriff ‘s Office
Original story (10:46):
BLACK HOCKEY DISTRICT, Iowa (KWWL) – The Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office is implementing safety protocols after a number of inmates tested positive for COVID-19.
Four inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to Sheriff Tony Thompson. One prisoner was in the population, and the other three recently arrived at the prison and went through the standard 14 days of solitary confinement for incoming prisoners. The test results returned last week and all four prisoners remain in prison.
“It’s not an outbreak, it’s just a concern,” Thompson said, adding that the four positives make up about 1% of the prison’s population.
Prison staff have introduced removable locks to keep half of the prisoners in a capsule at a time to reduce contact and provide more cleaning time. Half of the prisoners have access outside their cells, while the other half remain in their cells. The facility is then cleaned and then the prisoners are replaced.
“It allows more social distancing of the space. It allows more cleaning time and also allows, if we have a problem, fewer people to contact with tracking, fewer people we’ve interacted with,” Thompson said.
The ordinary prisoner, who has a positive test, is placed in isolation and the staff is waiting for a subsequent test to confirm the results. A prisoner of the general population was positive earlier in the pandemic, but a follow-up test found it to be false positive.
When the test results returned last week, the visits were suspended and prison officials had planned to do so for 14 days. The sheriff’s office withdrew from the decision Monday after they were able to work with the county health department for best practices. Visits resumed on Tuesday.
Masks are mandatory for staff, and prisoners must wear masks when they are outside their cells. Staff will only work with a specific group, as Thompson worries that an asymptomatic staff member may have introduced the virus. While staff are tempted and checked before each shift, these protocols do not capture an asymptomatic case.
Later in the week, rapid testing equipment will arrive at the prison, allowing more frequent and active testing of prisoners as well as staff.