NEW ORLEANS – As of Friday, June 12, there are no known positive cases of COVID-19 among the inmate population currently in the custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.
This was achieved through an aggressive screening and testing process in partnership with Tulane University, a strict protocol to segregate positive and potentially positive cases from other inmates, efforts to educate inmates and staff on prevention methods and a detailed treatment plan.
“Our staff, medical provider and partners have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to navigate this very challenging and unpredictable situation,” said Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who also expressed his deep regret that three employees passed away due to the coronavirus. “Our thoughts are with the families of our fallen coworkers and everyone that has been impacted in some way throughout this time,” he said.
Despite the loss, Sheriff Gusman said the Sheriff’s Office will remain vigilant against the virus. “Of course, we will continue to do our testing as we get new inmates in our custody every day. We will also continue with the testing of our staff and contractors who leave and return to work every day. We still have a long road, but I am confident in our ability to overcome what lies ahead.”
Among OPSO staffers, including medical personnel, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has decreased drastically. Currently, 13 OPSO employees have tested positive and are quarantined in their homes. At the height of the pandemic, 94 inmates and 74 staff members were positive for the virus. To date, more than 1,174 inmates and 877 employees have been tested.
The decision to test all employees, contractors and inmates has set the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office apart from agencies across the country, said Dr. Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University, which was instrumental in helping the Sheriff’s Office ramp up its testing capabilities. “What the Sheriff’s Office is doing is instructive for correctional facilities as well as hospitals and long-term care facilities. The experience at OPSO in this first phase of COVID-19 testing will provide guidance for others in our community and communities across the country,” Dr. Garry said.
“When COVID-19 first emerged, we recognized that correction centers like ours were extremely vulnerable which is why we acted as quickly as possible to protect our inmates, staff and the New Orleans community,” said Independent Compliance Director for OPSO Darnley R. Hodge, Sr.
OPSO’s leadership and medical team are working to evaluate the organization’s testing process thus far and making plans to conduct phase two testing. In keeping with phase one, all individuals who enter the building will continue to be screened and denied access at the discretion of medical personnel based on screening results. In an effort to remain transparent, OPSO will continue to keep the public informed on the status of COVID-19 within its facilities.