Dane County jail takes steps to diminish risk after COVID-19 cases

MADISON (WKOW) - Dane County Sheriff's officials are using a combination of strategies to diminish the risk of the spread of the coronavirus in the county jail after two inmates tested positive.

Sheriff's officials say while tests of two other inmates came back negative, several inmates were being monitored after displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

"There were two more who had fevers," Sheriff David Mahoney said Friday.

"And we have one deputy who has presented with a high fever," Mahoney says. Mahoney says if the deputy proves to be a positive case, it would be the first such case in the ranks of the Sheriff's office.

Mahoney says he's tracking certain inmates in particular. "My biggest concern are the at-risk communities that we serve," Mahoney says. "The older adults and those who have compromised systems that are currently in jail."

Mahoney says he has confidence in staff including jail medical personnel and says planning is helping with any contingencies. "We are prioritizing housing units that can be used for quarantine and isolation." Mahoney says if the condition of the two inmates found to be positive worsens, they will be transferred to a Madison hospital.

Sheriff's spokesperson Elise Schaffer tells 27 News Public Health Madison and Dane County advised Sheriff's officials to treat the remainder of the jail population as if they had been exposed and had the virus. Schaffer said there would be no further testing of inmates "in the immediate future."

Mahoney says data shows coronavirus cases in Wisconsin have yet to peak. "That's why we're so diligent at the front end, doing everything we can to get non-violent offenders and get them out of the institution," he says.

Mahoney says the use of electronic monitoring of inmates at their homes has been expanded. He says Sheriff's officials have worked with judges, the district attorney and the clerk of courts to modify inmate bails when appropriate to facilitate releases.

"All of us right now are involved in the tip of the iceberg," Mahoney says of the pandemic.

More at WKOW 27 News

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