The entire population at the Bartow County Jail is in quarantine after 30-plus positive cases of COVID-19 among inmates.
Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said those who have tested positive have been mostly asymptomatic and the quarantine is effective as of Wednesday.
“We have observed the mistruths that have been posted on social media in the past couple of days,” Millsap said in a statement. “I can assure you that we are monitoring all inmates in the facility and we are testing and following the state health department’s guidelines and recommendations.”
Northwest Georgia public health district spokesman Logan Boss said they have been in discussions with jail officials. “There are over 30 cases at the jail and we expect more,” Boss said. “They have been following the recommended guidelines.”
Jails present particular issues when quarantining infected individuals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 often are cohort quarantines. Cohorting refers to the practice of isolating people infected with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus together as a group, due to a limited number of individual cells.
At this point jails are No. 2 in the top three locations for outbreaks, Boss said. No. 1 is long-term care facilities and No. 3 is schools.
“Other correctional and detention facilities that have had outbreaks include Hays (state prison) and jails in Floyd, Paulding and Chattooga,” Boss said.
An outbreak at those type of group facilities is defined as one confirmed COVID-19 case within a 28-day span. If those facilities report additional cases during that time period, the outbreak is considered ongoing, he said.
At this point there have been no Floyd County Jail inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said.
However, they did get an inmate in at the Floyd jail from Bartow County on Tuesday. The jail staff has isolated that inmate as well as any contacts, and tests were pending as of Wednesday afternoon.
There have been seven staff members within the past month who have either been quarantined or tested positive, Burkhalter said.
Millsap said those incarcerated in the Bartow jail are receiving medical care.
“My jail staff and I took an oath to protect and serve, this includes people who are incarcerated as well,” he said in a letter.
He said visitation until the quarantine is lifted will be limited to video visitation, phone calls or emails with people in custody.
“Please do not call and ask if your relative or loved one has tested positive,” he said. “Due to HIPPA regulations we cannot release this information to you. If the inmate tests positive they will be told the results of their test and they can share it with you.”