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51 Clark County jail inmates test positive for coronavirus in June

Updated June 30, 2020 - 5:56 pm

When the Metropolitan Police Department in June tested all inmates in its custody for the coronavirus, the 51 who tested positive were also asymptomatic.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Larry Hadfield said that from June 2-22, all inmates in Clark County Detention Center custody were tested for the coronavirus. Before June 2, 16 inmates had tested positive.

“In the interest of continuing our implementation of best standards, we tested the entire inmate population and will continue to test all new intakes,” Hadfield said in the statement.

Of the 67 total inmates who have tested positive for the virus, 37 remain in custody, Hadfield said. During the detention center’s “most recent operational period,” there were 2,502 inmates in custody.

According to Metro’s 2019 annual report, there was a daily average of 3,710 people who were in the detention center’s custody last year, excluding those on house arrest. Inmates last fiscal year spent an average of three weeks incarcerated at the jail, the report said.

Slowing the spread

Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Nevada, the department has attempted to reduce the number of people incarcerated at the jail to help prevent the virus’ spread.

In March, police officers were instructed to use discretion when making misdemeanor arrests, and issue citations for nonviolent crimes or traffic offenses, excluding DUIs. However, during anti-racism and police brutality protests in late May and June, the department booked hundreds of protesters into the Clark County Detention Center on suspicion of charges such as failing to disperse.

On Tuesday, Hadfield said the “direction” involving misdemeanor and traffic arrests has not changed.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo in April also ordered the release of up to 290 inmates to slow the spread of the virus.

New inmates tested at the jail are being housed temporarily in an “intake housing module” before they’re placed in general population, Hadfield said. Inmates who arrive at the jail and say they have been to a “hot spot state or country” are being placed in quarantine for 10 days.

As of Tuesday, there are 12 “modules” at the jail that are on quarantine “based on inmates having tested positive,” he said.

Hadfield said that all employees at the jail are required to wear face masks, and inmates are required to wear masks when they leave their cells or are off of their bunk in the open dormitories. Inmates are being allowed “free time, but in smaller groups,” and other programming at the jail has been canceled.

“Inmates who are symptomatic are isolated and monitored by medical professionals pending the outcome of their test results,” Hadfield said.

On June 2, officials began testing inmates who were in quarantined modules, as well as some inmates in general population, he said. Testing at the jail’s downtown facility finished on June 18, and testing at the North Valley Complex in the far northeast valley finished on June 22.

In contrast to the jail, which has new inmates booked and released daily, the Nevada Department of Corrections has reported only 15 prisoners who have tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Corrections said in a statement last week that 83 percent of prisoners had received a test.

Metro employees

According to data posted to Metro’s website, 58 department employees had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday. There are 401 employees who have received a test, 22 of which are still awaiting results.

The department’s 2019 annual report shows there were 4,659 Metro employees last fiscal year. When the number of employees who have been tested is compared to the most recent total, it shows that 8.6 percent of the department’s employees have received a test.

Likely because reported testing of department employees is low, the infection rate for Metro employees is 14.46, more than twice the infection rate for all of Nevada as of Tuesday.

On Tuesday, there were 17,901 cases of the coronavirus throughout the state, 14,607 of which are in Clark County, according to reports from local health district and other county agencies. It was the third straight day that more than 600 new cases were recorded in Clark County, although the Southern Nevada Health District said weekend numbers were inflated by reporting delays of older cases.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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