OPSO: 126 inmates and 70 employees have tested positive for coronavirus to date

Coronavirus
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NEW ORLEANS – On Friday, 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 (OJC) related COVID-19 prevention and treatment:

FRIDAY’S UPDATE:  

“We are pleased to report that, in the past 24 hours, our OPSO employees receiving negative test results has grown by two bringing the total to 239. In total, 333 OPSO employees have been tested with 24 results still pending. The number of positive OPSO employee cases has remains the same at 70 cases. The number of OPSO employees who have returned to work after recovering from COVID-19 has increased by one and is now at 20. As previously reported, two have passed away.

In the past 24 hours, five additional employees of OPSO’s contracted medical provider, Wellpath, have been tested bringing the total number of Wellpath staff tested to 58. The number of medical staff testing positive has not changed and is still at 13 employees. Of those, nine have recovered and returned to work and four remain positive and in quarantine. Additionally, 44 have tested negative and one test is pending.

The status of OPSO inmate cases has increased by one in the past 24 hours bringing the number of positive cases to 126. Of the total positive cases, 88 are in OPSO custody and are medically segregated for the safety of themselves, other inmates and our staff. As previously reported, one of the inmates who tested positive was transported to a local hospital on April 21 due to a high fever. His condition continues to improve.

We are also pleased to report that 24 additional inmate tests came back negative in the past 24 hours bringing the total number of negative cases to 583. Currently, six inmates have refused testing and are under quarantine.

In an effort to identify, contain and eliminate the virus from within our facilities, a total of 720 inmates have been tested to date, which is up from 706 yesterday. The results of 11 of these tests have not been received but are expected to return in coming days.

Our current inmate population is 822 with 751 at the Orleans Justice Center (OJC).”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

As announced in yesterday’s report, two members of our OPSO staff, Lt. Garry P. Duplessis and Deputy Vanessa Mackey, have passed away thus far from contracting COVID-19. Neither of these individuals had any contact with our inmate population. They will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by all of us here at OPSO.

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:

  • On March 17, 2020, OPSO suspended all inmate transportation to the courts.
  • 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 with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 undergo pulse oximeter checks twice 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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