40 inmates positive for COVID-19 at Jeffco jail

Eight staff also now positive

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/2/20

Forty inmates at the Jefferson County jail have now tested positive for COVID-19, Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Michael Taplin said on May 28. Taplin said the jail has tested 126 …

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40 inmates positive for COVID-19 at Jeffco jail

Eight staff also now positive

Posted

Forty inmates at the Jefferson County jail have now tested positive for COVID-19, Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Michael Taplin said on May 28.

Taplin said the jail has tested 126 inmates for COVID-19. The jail is now testing all inmates who exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 after previously requiring that inmates exhibit at least two symptoms to receive a test.

“We have tests now where our medical provider was having issues getting tests previously,” said Taplin.

Taplin said he could not speak to whether the cases were tied to inmates who have contact with one another, saying that such questions are investigated by the jail’s medical staff and Jefferson County Public Health as they investigate outbreaks at the jail. All inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 are isolated in cells by themselves.

On May 8, the jail had announced 17 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.

Eight jail employees have also now tested positive for COVID-19, Taplin said.

“I don’t know if we can expect a certain number never having dealt with this sort of pandemic but I would say that we are not surprised that we have it in the jail due to how infectious the disease is,” he said.

The Jefferson County jail is not the only jail in the metro area to have current COVID-19 outbreak. Colorado Public Health and Environment’s COVID-19 outbreaks page also lists outbreaks at the Denver County jail, Douglas County jail and Weld County jail.

Also, 539 inmates have tested positive at the Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling. The active outbreak at the Jefferson County jail outbreak is listed as starting on May 5. A facility is considered to have an active outbreak when there have been two or more cases of COVID-19 within a 14 day period.

As of midnight on May 28, the jail population was 559, which is less than half of its current operational capacity of 1,148. Taplin said the jail population has been below 600 for the past two weeks.

As a result of the reduced capacity, Taplin said the jail is now able to get almost every inmate into their own cell on the old side of the jail while there are bunks spaced between inmates on the newer side of the jail.

Taplin said the jail has also recently began issuing inmates surgical masks to wear inside the jail after the Sheriff’s Office received additional PPE. Inmates were previously issued masks made from old jail uniforms.

Taplin said the jail continues to do the best it can as it deals with the pandemic.

“We’ve never dealt with a pandemic like this before and we are making decisions based on everybody involved, employees and inmates,” he said.

Inmate who died did not have COVID-19

Taplin said the Sheriff’s Office has also been notified by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office that Paul George Abeyta, the 50-year-old inmate who died at the jail on May 1, did not have COVID-19. Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Dan Pruett said the autopsy report for Abeyta, which will include the results of a toxicology screening, has not been completed. However, Pruett confirmed Abeyta tested negative for COVID-19.

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