20 inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Yakima County jail

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima County jail is taking measures to address a COVID-19 outbreak in the annex section, where more than a dozen inmates have tested positive for the virus.

“Hopefully we got ahead of it this time, whereas, in previous ones we had it spread throughout the jail—as of right now, it appears to be isolated to just the annex,” Interim Director Jeremy Welch said.

Welch said several inmates reported feeling ill on Friday and when medical staff tested them, 12 came back positive for the virus. By Monday, everyone at the jail had been tested; 20 inmates and three staff members had tested positive.

The inmates who tested positive were from three units in the annex — housing a total of 97 inmates — and were moved to an isolated unit on the second floor of the jail. Welch said those three units are now under a 10-day quarantine.

“We’re going to continue to test every three days to make sure we don’t have new positives popping up,” Welch said.

If an inmate does test positive during subsequent testing, they will be moved to the isolated unit on the second floor and the 10-day quarantine period will start over for that unit.

“The staff, the officers are all working really hard right now to make sure surfaces that are being cleaned and that they’re following the protocols,” Welch said.

Among other preventative measures, those protocols include testing inmates during booking, regularly testing staff on a volunteer basis and encouraging staff and inmates to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Yakima Neighborhood Health Services comes into the jail every Wednesday to provide a vaccination clinic, which is open to any inmate by request.

“I don’t know how many are in our current population that are vaccinated, but in total since [the clinic’s] been available to the inmates, we’ve had plus,” Welch said.

Welch said vaccination, masking and frequent sanitization for staff and inmates has helped to prevent the jail from having a larger outbreak, like those seen in other correctional facilities across the country. However, he said it’s still a struggle to keep everyone safe.

“It’s difficult to fight something you can’t see,” Welch said. “You can do everything — everything possible —and it could still potentially make it in here somehow.”

Welch said none of the inmates have symptoms that would require hospitalization at this point and they have a plan in place to be able to get them to the hospital for treatment, if needed.

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