Five staff members with OPSO test positive for coronavirus; 13 awaiting results

Coronavirus

A medical worker gestures at a COVID-19 testing station at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Monday, March 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW ORLEANS – On Wednesday, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Compliance Director Darnley R. Hodge released the following statement regarding ongoing health monitoring of inmates and OPSO staff and contractors, as well as established precautions at the Orleans Justice Center related COVID-19 prevention and treatment:

TODAY’S UPDATE:  

“As of today, 20 OPSO staffers have been tested for COVID-19. Of the 20, five have tested positive for the virus, two have tested negative and the remaining 13 are still awaiting test results. Another eight employees have self-quarantined because they came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

There are 14 medical staffers who have been tested. Of these, four have tested positive and ten are awaiting their results. Another four medical staffers have self-quarantined.

One inmate, normally assigned to housing at the Hunt Correctional Center, was transported to a New Orleans hospital due to a high fever. He was treated and returned to the Orleans Justice Center.

Of the 869 inmates in OPSO custody today, three have been tested, and the results are still pending. Four inmates have exhibited potential symptoms of COVID-19 and will be tested today. As mentioned earlier this week, a former inmate tested positive and is still in stable condition at a local hospital.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

“The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has a plan in place for illnesses such as pandemic flu, which has been modified to better fit the recommended COVID-19 response procedures. We are in regular communication with the New Orleans Department of Health, the Louisiana Office of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the public, our staff and our inmates and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Following is a summary of the prevention and treatment measures that are in force at all OPSO facilities:

  • Our medical department, Wellpath, has developed a coronavirus screening process for all new arrestees, current inmates and anyone who enters our facilities. This screening includes temperature screenings with the latest technology and several targeted questions surrounding their activities and interactions over the past 14 days.
  • In addition to daily temperature screening, all inmates and OPSO staff undergo pulse oximeter checks daily.
  • At this time, all non-essential visits to OPSO facilities are suspended.
  • Attorney-client visits and inmates’ first appearances have shifted to video conferencing only.
  • In keeping with normal routine, we are dispensing soap and other toiletries to inmates free of charge and staff is directing inmates to wash their hands frequently. The OPSO is also working to ensure that it is equipped with enough supplies to combat COVID-19 on a prolonged basis.
  • Accommodations have also been made to quarantine any affected individuals in segregated cells. This protocol includes inmates that are being treated for non-COVID-19 health issues and according to the direction of the OPSO medical staff.
  • OPSO staff is vigorously cleaning the facilities and hand sanitation stations have also been installed throughout the Orleans Justice Center.

All OPSO employees and contractors have been notified of this plan, advised on ways to avoid exposure to the virus, encouraged to practice social distancing and urged to notify their supervisors and stay home if they are feeling ill. Specifically, the OPSO has implemented the following procedures for OPSO staff:

  • All OPSO employees are to remain in or on their assigned areas or posts. OPSO staff are prohibited from visiting areas other than their designated posts.
  • At the OPSO entry screening point and before they enter the Orleans Justice Center, OPSO employees and contract personnel must self-report any contact they have had with an individual who has a presumptive positive or positive test for COVID-19.
  • All OPSO staff who call off-duty for potential COVID-19 symptoms for themselves or a family member are required to submit a medical clearance prior to reporting to their assigned post.

As an educational tool for inmates and staff, OPSO has produced a series of videos that is airing on televisions across the facilities. The videos focus on the severity of the outbreak and address how to identify signs and symptoms, ways to prevent the spread and employee protocol surrounding COVID-19.

We have established protocol to test individuals for the virus and report cases to the CDC and Department of Health immediately. We also have detailed instructions and procedures for treating that individual or, if necessary, properly transporting that person to a designated medical facility.”

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