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Clark County jail screening inmates, will isolate COVID-19 cases

Updated March 10, 2020 - 11:03 pm

A plan of action is in place at the Clark County Detention Center to protect inmates and staff from the coronavirus-caused COVID-19 disease.

Staff and officers have been educated on the signs and symptoms of the illness, and steps are being taken even before an inmate is processed into the downtown Las Vegas jail, according to the Metropolitan Police Department, which on Tuesday released details of its plan to the public in response to a request from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We take very seriously the health of our population, and our employees that work there. Our plans and policies currently in place address infectious disease protocol, and are mitigating measures that adhere to the current CDC guidelines,” Rachel Skidmore, Metro’s emergency manager, wrote in an email to the Review-Journal on Monday.

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to those of the flu, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, and evidence suggests that it primarily spreads through droplets from a sneeze or a cough, or by touching an infected surface. Most people infected by the new coronavirus develop mild or moderate symptoms and recover after about two weeks, but more severe cases can result in pneumonia, respiratory distress, kidney failure and even death.

During the booking process, medical staff will individually screen each inmate for symptoms and potential exposure, including any travel prior to their arrest. Those showing signs of illness, as well inmates who are asymptomatic but may have been exposed to the virus, will then be quarantined at the jail and screened over a two-week period by medical staff with guidance from the Southern Nevada Health District.

Hand sanitizer is not available to the inmates due to the alcohol content, but the inmates “have constant access to anti-bacterial soap and water throughout the jail,” according to Metro spokeswoman Alejandra Zambrano. In addition, proper hand-washing instructions have been posted near each sink.

Last week, the Nevada Department of Corrections announced that visitation to all its institutions was temporarily suspended. But Metro said that as of Tuesday, it does not intend to follow suit because inmates do not have “direct access” to visitors, who speak to the inmates in a video conference booth separated by glass.

“Visitation would only be canceled in the event there is a concern for the general public, or there is a safety and/or security threat at the jail,” Metro said.

Instead, jail staff will routinely clean the video conferencing booths in addition to other common areas, including the front lobby. Inmates also have been asked to take “an active role” in cleaning their own cells multiple times a day.

In the event of an exposure concern, jail staff will contact the Health District and Metro’s risk management team, according to the agency.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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