NEW ORLEANS – On Wednesday, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Compliance Director Darnley R. Hodge released the following statement regarding the ongoing health monitoring of inmates, OPSO staff and contractors, as well as established precautions at the Orleans Justice Center (OJC) related COVID-19 prevention and treatment.
“To date, 46 OPSO employees have tested positive for COVID-19, 20 tested negative and 12 are awaiting results. In total, 78 employees have been tested since the beginning of the pandemic.
Additionally, a total of 23 employees of OPSO’s contracted medical provider, Wellpath, have been tested for COVID-19. This includes 11 that tested positive, 11 that have tested negative and one who is awaiting results.
Out of our current active inmate count, there are 20 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19. Out of the 20 inmates that have tested positive, seven have been released from OPSO custody and the remaining have been medically segregated for the safety of themselves, other inmates and our staff. Twenty-three inmates have tested negative.
On April 13 and 14, a total of 282 inmates were tested in an effort to identify, contain and eliminate the virus from within our facilities. The results of these tests have not been received but are expected to return in coming days. Due to this effort, a total of 327 inmates have been tested for COVID-19 in total.”
“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 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.”