Monroe County Jail begins 100% inmate testing for COVID-19

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Monroe County Jail began testing all inmates for coronavirus Tuesday.

The announcement from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office came less than a week after nearly 200 inmates were quarantined at the jail. As of Tuesday afternoon, 70 inmates had tested positive.

“By testing every single inmate inside of our jail, we will have a clear picture of who is currently infected — working with ‘I knows’ versus ‘what ifs,’” Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said Tuesday.

The 100% testing plan calls for a phased-in approach, with all inmates being tested over the course of a few days, beginning Tuesday.

Inmates who test positive will be quarantined together for 21 days. Those who are assumed positive will be housed together until they test negative twice in a row over a 14-day period.

“Despite out proactive measures exceeding CDC guidelines initiated since the virus began, to include testing and quarantine efforts of inmates and staff that go above and beyond the standards recommended by federal and state public health departments, as well as continuous 24/7 sanitization of our facility, we continues to witness the spread of this disease,” Sheriff Baxter said “Our hope is this 100% testing campaign will stop the spread of the virus and eradicate it inside of our jail.”

The sheriff said medical contractors with Prime Care came to Rochester Tuesday to evaluate the plan and begin testing. Jail staff will be tested on their first day back to work. Any staff members who experience symptoms will not return until they are tested. The plan also calls for ongoing, random mass testing for the jail population.

As a result of the outbreak’s impact on the jail, social visitation has been suspended. Inmates will be given two free 15-minute phone calls and one free 30-minute video call per week. The sheriff’s office says it is working with local lawmakers to give inmates more flexibility when it comes to free calls in the future.

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart applauded the sheriff’s decision for free phone calls.

Plan of action for inmates:

  • Testing 100% of the inmate population using phased-in approach (beginning 12/8/20) over the next few days
  • All inmates educated by medical personnel prior to testing
  • Testing results (which will be public knowledge) will determine where inmates are housed:
    • COVID-POSITIVE – COVID-Positive inmates housed together for 21 days
    • PRESUMPTIVE POSITIVE – assumed positive and housed together until clear two negative test results in a row over 14-day period
    • COVID-NEGATIVE – two tests with negative results
  • Inmates determined to have underlying health conditions are currently seen by medical professional at least two times/day
  • Meloni Star Academy (MSA), located in Brighton, NY will likely be utilized to support our efforts
  • Prime Care CEO (Medical Contractor) consulted with Sheriff Saturday by phone; flew into Rochester today to assess and develop plan
  • Prime Care bringing in teams to administer testing

Plan of action for all staff:

Includes deputies, civilian staff, medical staff, mental health staff, etc.

  • Any staff experiencing symptoms will not report to work and will be tested
  • Staff tested on first day back to work after returning from scheduled day(s) off across all shifts

Mitigation tactics and procedures inside the jail:

  • Continuous mass testing campaign for all MCJ Staff planned individually based upon each staff member’s work schedule (NEW)
  • Random mass testing plans being developed for inmate population (NEW)
  • Due to the current COVID pandemic and the impact on jail operations, MCSO is increasing the ability that inmates have to interact with their families. Inmates are now being provided two free 15-minute phone calls and a free 30 minute video call each week, which is outside the current contract due to the flexibility of Secures. The Sheriff’s Office will be working with Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart and the entire County Legislature, as well as County Executive Adam Bello, in the near future as MCSO amends the phone contract to have more flexibility in the number of free calls provided each week. (NEW)
  • All jail social visitations remain suspended (No Change)
  • All incoming inmates placed in automatic 14-day quarantine (No Change)
  • All non-inmate personnel temperature screened upon entry (No Change)
  • Mandatory masking and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) remain in place for both inmates and staff (No Change)
  • MCSO works with Monroe County Public Health Department and New York State Commission of Correction to review procedures (No Change)

Watch the full briefing:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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