A Utah defense attorney said Monday that her client tested positive for the coronavirus less than a day after he was released from a Salt Lake County jail facility.
But Sheriff Rosie Rivera pushed back on the suggestion that coronavirus had spread in the jails on Monday afternoon, saying there hadn’t been any positive tests at the jail facilities. Sheriff’s officials said there have been five negative tests at the Metro jail, but there are no test results pending.
Attorney Michelle Crane said her client, a 37-year-old man, had been released from the Oxbow jail Thursday evening. He had been tested for COVID-19, he told her, while at the jail because his cellmate had a high fever and had to be moved. Rivera said there’s been no quarantines at that jail in the past year.
By Friday morning, Crane said her client woke up feeling ill and had a fever.
"He literally went from perfectly fine to in the ICU within two hours," Crane said Monday. "He was septic. He couldn't stand up. He's really sick."
The man is still in a Utah County hospital as of Monday. She said he was tested for the coronavirus in the hospital, and the results came back positive Sunday. Hospital workers told her client that a jail nurse confirmed to them that his test from the jail also came back positive.
But the sheriff’s office said in a Monday news release that the inmate wasn’t tested at the jail, and officials were not aware of any jail nurse who confirmed a positive result to any inmate, family member or medical provider.
“The Salt Lake County Health Department confirmed this afternoon that an individual recently released from Oxbow Jail tested positive for COVID-19,” the news release reads. “[The health department] does not consider the individual an exposure risk to other inmates because he was not symptomatic until after release from the facility."
Crane expressed concern Monday that jail officials didn’t advise him to isolate himself or check for symptoms.
"People in his situation, people who suffer from drug addiction, [need] to have their symptoms taken seriously, even if they seem similar to an overdose situation," the attorney said. "That can happen in the jail, you can get access to things you shouldn't."
The defense attorney said her client has been incarcerated since last July, and had been in Oxbow facility since December, and believes it’s impossible he would have been exposed to the virus anywhere else but the jail.
There are currently just over 300 inmates at the Salt Lake County Oxbow jail, a smaller facility that was reopened in recent years to help ease overcrowding.
But the number of people in the two Salt Lake County facilities is the lowest that it's been in more than eight years, as officials try to reduce the number of people incarcerated to limit the possibility of a widespread coronavirus outbreak behind bars.
As of Monday, there are 1,673 people in the jails, according to data from the sheriff’s office. That’s a 21% decrease of what it was a little more than two weeks ago, when the inmate population was 2,122.
It’s the lowest the jail population has been since 2012, which is the oldest data available on the sheriff’s office’s data dashboard.