Yakima County Jail suffers COVID-19 outbreak amongst inmates, staff

Yakima County jail

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima Health District (YHD) is alerting the public to a COVID-19 outbreak that impacted a significant portion of the staff and inmates at the Yakima County Jail in February.

According to the release issued on Friday, 59 inmates at the Yakima County Jail have contracted COVID-19 as a result of this outbreak. Additionally, 14 staff members are confirmed to have contracted the virus due to this outbreak.

The Yakima Health District’s investigation into this outbreak reportedly began on February 10, 2021, when they were alerted to multiple positive COVID-19 tests from staff members at the county jail. They promptly advised advanced measures to test inmates and staff at the Yakima County Jail to limit the outbreak and conduct contact tracing.

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In the close-quarters parameters of a county jail, community spread is nearly unavoidable once the virus is introduced to that environment. Many of the COVID-19 fatalities suffered throughout the United States have been a direct result of community spread in both short-term and long-term detention facilities.

The Yakima Health District provided the following guidelines to officials at the county jail:

  • Co-hort individuals who have had a positive COVID-19 test
  • Co-hort individuals who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
  • Test inmates every three days
  • Continuously monitor staff and inmates for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Increase N95 mask usage for staff
  • Increase testing for staff

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Public health officials also emphasized the importance of exercising infection prevention measures. That includes limiting visitation until the outbreak is contained, ensuring that staff members who were exposed or are at-risk take the proper measures to isolate themselves as needed and grouping symptomatic inmates together.

Dr. Larry Jecha, the acting Health Officer for the Yakima Health District, offered the following statement about the outbreak:

“COVID-19 can spread quickly in congregate settings like the Yakima County Jail. This outbreak serves as a reminder to continue following public health recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Jecha said. “By doing our part in preventing transmission within the community, it will decrease the chances of COVID-19 being introduced into congregate living facilities.”

According to Chief Welch of the Yakima County Department of Corrections, electromagnetic disinfectant sprayers are being implemented to improve cleaning procedures and expel the virus from the confines of the Yakima County Jail.


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