First Responders Spotlight: MCSO gets COVID numbers in jail down to zero

First Responders Spotlight

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Back in December, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said he wanted to be ‘brutally honest’ on COVID-19 numbers inside the Monroe County jail. Over 250 inmates were positive at the time, and he knew something had to be done.

Baxter said he quickly had to take action to stop the spread at the jail. Today, those efforts have paid off.

“We’re at zero. We’ve been at zero for the past four weeks inside the jail now,” says Capt. James McGowan with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

McGowan helped to spearhead this effort with his team. They set up testing sites for 500 staff and twice as many inmates, sectioning off positive and negative cases. 

“We tested every single inmate every single week,” he says.

Baxter says they tested dozens and dozens of workers who came to work positive for COVID-19, but were asymptomatic. 

“Same thing with the inmate population. Over 75% of the inmates that were positive were asymptomatic. We wouldn’t have known it if we didn’t test them,” says Baxter.

Baxter says all here, including inmates, are his responsibility. “They’re in my care and custody, we will maintain safety as much as we can inside that jail,” he says.

Some tough calls were made: social visitation was suspended. Inmates were given extra phone calls and a weekly video chat with loved ones. Those measures say Deputy Jamie Gauthier, needed. 

“One positive person can have a major effect on the entire operation,” she says.

If these action steps — which continue — were not taken, “Well, we could have been looking at some deaths. We were so fortunate to avoid that,” says McGowan adding, “It’s worth it in the end. You’re protecting the inmate population, you’re protecting your staff.”

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