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Six Cuyahoga County Jail Inmates Test Positive For COVID-19

Updated: 5:28 p.m., Friday, April 3, 2020

Six inmates at the Cuyahoga County Jail have tested positive for the coronavirus, and two more are under suspicion.

All the infected inmates lived in the same area of the jail, and MetroHealth System is doing contact tracing to determine who could have been exposed to the virus.

"The city and county health departments are working together to support Metro in this investigation,” County Executive Armond Budish said. “And it's important, I want to repeat: we are prepared for this."

According to the union representing officers in the jail, Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, 12 corrections officers were sent home and told to remain in quarantine for two weeks.

“It is still very unclear to us as to how can get a first responder tested,” said Adam Chaloupka, referring to officers working at the jail who were exposed to the virus but are not showing symptoms.

This week, the county dropped off an additional 30,000 gloves and 10,000 masks at the jail to protect staff and inmates.

Cuyahoga County officials also informed the union that every guard will receive surgical masks and face guards, according to Chaloupka. The guards working in the housing unit will receive N95 masks, gowns and foot covers.

Budish said he didn't believe the inmates brought the virus into the jail. Most of the inmates who tested positive for the coronavirus have been in custody since 2019, and the most recent arrived in February.

“We’ve been screening every officer and every inmate who comes into the jail,” Budish said. “There’s no way these six inmates brought this COVID-19 into the jail.”

Last month, the county stopped allowing personal visitation for inmates, Budish said, and county courts held special hearings in an effort to decrease the jail's population.

"The efforts that took place through March, in relation to reducing the volume of people in the jail, have allowed us to actually implement many of our plans, and to reduce the risk of transmission across the space,” said Jail Medical Director Dr. Julia Bruner.

As of Friday, the population of the Downtown jail is 1,021.

Cuyahoga County has stopped transferring all sentenced inmates to state prisons after notifying the state prison authority of the confirmed cases Friday. The pause in transfer will last at least two weeks.

Cuyahoga County sent 201 inmates to state prisons between March 12 and Friday’s announcement.

The county courthouse at the Justice Center will stay open, said Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan but with some new measures, including masks for inmates who are brought into court.

“The famous quote I heard was we're on a boat that we're building as we're out to sea. So, as we keep moving, we're modifying,” Sheehan said.

An earlier version of this story stated that two cases were pending test results. According to the county, those cases are under suspicion but there are no tests pending.

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