Three OPSO employees have died as a result of COVID-19


TOPSHOT – Bodies are moved to a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue at Wyckoff Hospital in the Borough of Brooklyn on April 6, 2020 in New York. – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday extended a shutdown in the epicenter of America’s deadly coronavirus pandemic until near the end of the month. Cuomo said the COVID-19 death rate in New York was “effectively flat” for the past two days but announced that schools and non-essential businesses must stay shut until April 29. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS – On Monday, 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:


“As previously reported, out of the 72 OPSO employees that have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, 25 have recovered and returned to work and three have passed away. Over the weekend, a total of 118 employees received negative test results bringing the total number of negative cases to 470.  A total of 116 additional OPSO employees were tested since our last update on Friday bringing the total number of tests to 597 with 55 results still pending. 

The status of OPSO’s contracted medical provider, Wellpath, remains the same with a total of 14 positive cases. Of those, nine have recovered and returned to work and five remain positive and are in quarantine. Two additional Wellpath employees were tested over the weekend bringing the total number of tests to 49. The results of one test are still pending.

In total, 19 employees of OPSO’s food vendor, Summit, have been tested. Of those tested, one employee tested positive, 17 received negative test results and one test is still pending. The individual who tested positive was an applicant and was screened as a part of the hiring process. This individual did not work on OPSO property and was not around the staff or inmate population.

Three additional OPSO inmates have tested positive bringing the total number of positive cases to 134. Of the total positive cases, 63 are in OPSO custody and are medically segregated for the safety of themselves, other inmates and our staff.

Six additional inmates received negative test results over the weekend bringing the total number of negative cases to 659.

In an effort to identify, contain and eliminate the virus from within our facilities a total of 806 inmates have been tested to date. The results of 13 of these tests have not been received but are expected to return in coming days. Currently, 13 inmates have refused testing and are under quarantine.

Our current inmate population is 828 with 756 at the Orleans Justice Center (OJC).”


As announced in previous reports, three members of our OPSO staff, Lt. Garry P. Duplessis, Deputy Eric Frazier and Deputy Vanessa Mackey, have passed away from contracting COVID-19. 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.
  • Security personnel limit the number of inmates that are allowed out at any one time to increase social distancing.
  • 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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