COVID-19 outbreak at the Oceana County Jail.

May 24, 2021

COVID-19 outbreak at the Oceana County Jail.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — During the past year and three months of the pandemic, the Oceana County Jail had stayed COVID-19 free…until last week.

Two inmates tested positive last week, and as of Monday morning, May 24, eight tested positive — although one of them has been released, said Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast.

No staff have been infected during the outbreak.

The inmates that have tested positive have only mild symptoms for the most part. One inmate was transported to the hospital over the weekend for further examinations and testing, but was sent back to the jail, Mast said.

The jail has a capacity of 66, and there are currently 41 inmates lodged there. 

Fewer suspects are being arrested to limit exposure at the jail. They are being issued citations instead. “We are not taking many unless it’s an assaultive crime,” said Sheriff Mast.

The jail tests all of its inmates and staff with 15-minute rapid testing. 

Inmates who have tested positive with the virus are quarantining together, he said, and those who have been in close contact are quarantining together.

The sheriff’s office has been working with county medical officials and staff from the District Health Department #10. A Zoom video conference was held recently that gave officials, including court staff, a thorough update on the situation. Court hearings continue to be held via Zoom.

All inmate visitations are done via video, so there is no contact from outside the facility. Work release of inmates is also suspended.

Inmates are required to wear masks when they move within the facility, but they are not required to wear them in their cells, said Mast.

Johnson & Johnson vaccinations were offered to inmates earlier this month, and nearly a dozen accepted the shot. None of the vaccinated inmates tested positive, Mast noted. More vaccinations will be offered soon.

The jail is continuously sanitized and cleaned, he said. 

Despite taking precautionary measures, jails throughout Michigan have been reporting COVID-19 outbreaks. “It’s a very unfortunate situation but it’s one that we anticipated.” 

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