Floyd County Jail starts putting masks on inmates and employees this week

In this April 15 file photo, two Floyd County Jail inmates wear masks as they watch television, the day a policy went into effect requiring staff and inmates to wear masks while they’re in large groups.

Two Floyd County Jail inmates tested positive for COVID-19 early Friday, Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said.

Those inmates are being housed in the medical isolation block and six others are quarantined while tests are pending, the sheriff said.

“We’ve been lucky to get this far,” he said. These are the first positive cases of COVID-19 at the jail. In early April, the Floyd County Jail mandated all visitors, inmates and staff at the jail were required to wear masks and that, among other changes, appears to have been working.

At this point the entire Bartow County Jail is in quarantine after 30-plus positive cases were reported on Wednesday.

Most of those who have tested positive at the Bartow County have been asymptomatic, Sheriff Clark Millsap said.

That leads to the crux of trying to keep the virus out of facilities like jails and prisons, Northwest Georgia public health district spokesman Logan Boss said. Many younger people catch COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. Add that to the influx of new arrests, one person infected could cause a widespread outbreak in a confined area.

“Ninety percent or more (of the cases they’ve found in jails) are asymptomatic which increases the difficulty of trying to control transmission in a confined environment.” Boss said.

That same asymptomatic transmissions among younger people have also led to the similar issues outside of isolated facilities.

“That’s why younger people need to wear masks and practice social distancing,” Boss said.

Another issue is how to quarantine inmates once an outbreak becomes widespread.

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.

In this region, public health officials have seen outbreaks — defined as one COVID-19 positive case per 28 days — in Chattooga and Paulding County as well as at Hays State Prison in Trion.

Outside of the jail, the state reported the deaths of two more Floyd County residents on Friday.

The two week number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Floyd County began to rise again near the end of that reporting period. While that may be a fluctuation the number of cases in that time period, 251, is roughly equal to the numbers in the county during June and July, just prior to a surge in August where we had two week averages above 400 until mid-September.

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