NEW ORLEANS – On Tuesday, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Compliance Director Darnley R. Hodge released the following statement regarding ongoing health monitoring of inmates and OPSO staff and contractors.
From July 8 to July 10, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office conducted phase two of COVID-19 testing as a way to proactively monitor the status of the virus within our facilities. Throughout this process, 658 OPSO staff were tested and 653 tested negative bringing the total number of current positive staff cases to five. As previously reported, three employees unfortunately passed away due to COVID-19.
Additionally, 104 employees of OPSO’s contracted medical provider, Wellpath, were tested in phase two. Of those tests, one came back positive and the remaining were negative. Regarding OPSO’s contract staff, 48 were tested and two tests came back positive.
At the Orleans Justice Center, 738 inmates have been tested in phase two. Of those tests, 644 were negative and 14 inmates tested positive. The results of 80 remaining tests have not been received and are expected to return in coming days. Individuals who tested positive are segregated from the general inmate population in addition to the 11 inmates who refused testing.
We have remained vigilant in our efforts to eradicate the virus from within our facilities and are continuing to take all of the necessary precautions.
There are currently 808 inmates in OPSO custody with 751 at the Orleans Justice Center.
“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.”
Additionally, OPSO inmate Christian Freeman passed away on Thursday, June 25. While the coroner reported that he was positive for COVID-19, the coroner did not suggest COVID-19 played a role in Freeman’s death. Freeman tested negative for COVID-19 during our routine phase one testing. All staff and inmates that potentially came in contact with Freeman were re-tested and segregated. Inmate Desmond Guild also passed away unexpectedly on Friday, June 19. Guild tested negative for COVID-19 and his death is still under investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these individuals.
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 have been airing on televisions across the facilities since the beginning of the pandemic. 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.”