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First COVID-19 case confirmed in inmate at Harford County jail; no others showing symptoms

An inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus inside the Harford County Detention Center, Cristie Hopkins, a spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, said Monday.

The inmate, who was not identified, has since been isolated, and no other inmates are showing symptoms, Hopkins said. The inmate’s roommate tested negative for the virus. The building currently houses 238 people, and at current staffing levels, can accommodate up to 484, Kyle Andersen, another sheriff’s spokesperson, said.

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This is the first inmate to test positive at the detention center, Hopkins said, and he has been incarcerated there since December.

Hopkins said the office is trying to determine how the virus entered into the jail.

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“Our medical services provider will evaluate to determine if we can pinpoint the source,” she said.

Visitation in the detention center was mostly stopped since March, due to the coronavirus pandemic. 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.

Statewide, there have been 2,898 confirmed inmate cases of COVID-19 and 19 inmate deaths related to the virus as of the week of Dec. 30, the latest data available from the Maryland Department of Health, which is updated weekly on Wednesdays. That data does not include the case in Harford.

Andersen said only inmates who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 are tested. Inmates brought to and booked in the detention center are isolated for 14 days before being admitted into a housing area, and daily temperature checks are included as part of the isolation As of Tuesday, there had been no new infections.

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Andersen said the jail does not plan to change its procedures after the first case was confirmed. The facilities are regularly sanitized, he said.

“The fact we’ve been able to go 10 months without a confirmed case is a testament to the hard work of the men and women of the detention center and the medical services provider, and the procedures that were put in place early in 2020 to protect the health of the inmates,” he said. “There would be no reason to change operations at this time.”

Nearby Cecil County experienced a coronavirus outbreak at its jail in October. Maryland Department of Health data indicates 121 total inmates and staff tested positive for COVID-19 at the Cecil County Detention Center in Elkton.

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.

Hopkins said Monday the scanner had been installed but was not fully operational. Training is under way for deputies to learn to use the body scanner, she said.

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