Ten inmates and four correctional deputies at the Harford County Detention Center have tested positive for coronavirus, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office offered testing to 14 inmates who were housed in the same area as the initial inmate who tested positive for COVID-19, said Cristie Hopkins.
As of Wednesday, 10 of those inmates, including the first one, have been quarantined in an isolated area away from the general population, after having test results return positive, she said. Only one inmate is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
Three others are awaiting test results; inmate refused to be tested, Hopkins said.
“All cases are from the same housing area and we are hopeful this is contained,” she said.
Since the first inmate tested positive on Jan. 5, four correctional deputies have also tested positive Hopkins said.
“In keeping with guidelines with the [Maryland] Department of Health, any agency member who tests positive will remain out of the workplace for a period of 10 days from the start of symptoms or 10 days from the positive test asymptomatic, unless a doctor’s note indicates a longer period of time,” Hopkins said.
Correctional deputies are among law enforcement personnel who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is being distributed by the Harford County Health Department. Vaccination clinics for first responders, including police and correctional deputies, began last week.
Hopkins said she did not have information about who had signed up or received the vaccine from the Health Department. Previously, she told The Aegis about a third of all sheriff’s office employees surveyed indicated they were interested in receiving the vaccine, and that the office was not requiring employees to be vaccinated.
She was unaware of whether any correctional deputies have expressed renewed interest in getting vaccinated since the COVID-19 cases among inmates were reported.
“New dates have been made available to personnel since these cases have emerged,” Hopkins said. “Correctional deputies are eligible to sign up, if they wished to do so.”
The jail’s first case was reported Jan. 5 in an unnamed inmate who had been in the detention center since November. His cellmate, who initially tested negative for the virus, tested positive at the end of last week. The two had been sharing a cell since December.
The jail’s medical services provider is investigating how the virus got into the facility.
No previous COVID-19 cases had been reported at the jail, located on Rock Spring Road in Bel Air, during the pandemic.
Visitation in the detention center was mostly stopped since March. Inmates were briefly allowed to host visitors in early November, but as coronavirus numbers spiked, visitation was again suspended on Nov. 12. Visitors had to conform to masking and social distancing guidelines during the week or so visitation was allowed.
According to the latest data provided on the Maryland Department of Health’s coronavirus website, there have been 7,228 total confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates at staff at state and local correctional facilities.
Harford County has recorded 9,848 COVID-19 cases, according to state data posted Wednesday, corresponding to 177 deaths related to the respiratory disease.
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In late November, the county’s Board of Estimates approved the sheriff’s office purchasing a $153,000 electronic body scanner to allow corrections deputies to conduct socially distant searches of inmates. The purchase was made using federal CARES Act funds.