OGDEN — The Weber County main jail’s COVID-19 positive test total ballooned to 83 as of Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said.
Officials said in a news release late Wednesday that most of the cases at the main jail on 12th Street have been traced to a pair of inmates who arrived in early June.
One of those men had a cough that the jail’s contract medical personnel diagnosed as a chronic cough from a preexisting medical condition, the release said. The other inmate showed no symptoms.
Another 10 positive tests have come back at the county’s satellite jail on Kiesel Avenue, the old main jail, the release said.
At the 12th Street complex, 82 inmates and one corrections employee have tested positive, the release said.
Three days earlier, the main jail’s positive tests total was six, officials reported.
The original inmate with the cough began showing additional coronavirus symptoms eight days after his arrival. By then, he had been in the general population for several days.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines for jails and prisons recommend that all new inmates be held in isolation areas for their first 14 days of incarceration.
But the Weber jail has not been able to meet that standard because of crowding, the release said.
For female inmates, the standard has been achieved, it said.
However, the number of isolation days for new male inmates depends on the jail’s daily population and the number of daily bookings.
“At the time we received the first two inmates that tested positive, new male bookings were only spending the days isolated from the general population,” the release said.
Some quarantined inmates are being held in groups.
“We do not have enough single-cell isolation units to put all exposed inmates in their own cells,” the release said.
As of Wednesday, 16 jail employees and 125 inmates have been tested for COVID-19, the release said.
The county is consulting the state for help, which may include a National Guard deployment to bolster testing capacity, according to the sheriff’s office.
“As we continue to test, we expect the number of positive cases to increase,” the release said.
Some of the infections likely come from sources of community spread other than those first two inmates, the sheriff’s office said.
At the Kiesel jail, the 10 positive cases are believed to have resulted from those inmates’ participation in a community work detail, according to the county.
Two other work-release inmates at Kiesel are being tested as well after experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
The 12th Street jail’s medical contractor, Vital Core Health Strategies, is hiring additional personnel to meet the load of care caused by the pandemic and to help prevent further spread, the jail said.
The jail is identifying inmates who meet CDC criteria for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, the release said.
County officials are working with the courts to determine which inmates may be released early or given alternative sentences.
That apparently would not help inmates being held under contract with the U.S. Marshals’ Service. They are not eligible for bail unless a federal judge grants it.
Lt. Joshua Marigoni, the sheriff’s office’s corrections spokesperson, said Thursday the main jail’s population stood at 624, compared with a daily average of 800 before the pandemic.
He said the Kiesel jail’s count was 66 on Thursday, down from 186 in March. He said the Kiesel population has declined through attrition and because the sheriff’s office quit sending inmates there as the pandemic hit.
Several inmates at the main jail have complained by email and phone calls that the jail is not meeting CDC guidelines, doing enough testing or adequately isolating new inmates for the recommended time.