As Utah continues to report record-high coronavirus case counts, cases also are spiking in the state’s prisons and jails.
The Davis County Jail is experiencing a new outbreak after the facility had been COVID-free for nine months. As of last week, 24 individuals had tested positive, and a dozen other inmates were being monitored for exposure. On Monday, the number of confirmed cases had jumped to 35, according to a spokesperson.
The Utah State Prison in Draper is also experiencing a new COVID-19 outbreak, weeks after another inmate died from the disease in December. The 43-year-old man had been hospitalized when he died Dec. 18, the Utah Department of Corrections reported two days later.
The prison system’s new COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed late last week, Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson Kaitlin Felsted said Thursday.
The reported outbreak is within the Promontory facility at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Felsted said. The facility houses male inmates who are participating in a substance abuse treatment program.
Among all state prison inmates in Draper, 181 out of 2,671 — or 6.7% of its population — were infected as of Thursday, Felsted said. At the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, four out of 1,677 inmates, or — 0.2% of its population — were sick as of Thursday.
About 60% to 92% of prisoners in Utah are vaccinated, depending on the facility, according to the corrections department’s COVID-19 webpage. In Draper’s Oquirrh 5 facility — where the most medically vulnerable inmates are housed — 92% of inmates are vaccinated.
Most vaccinated inmates have received a booster shot, Felsted said. The corrections department expects all inmates to have been offered a booster within the next couple of weeks, its webpage states.
Inmates are not required to be vaccinated. But Felsted said families of inmates should encourage their loved ones to get vaccinated, or to get a booster dose if eligible. Inmates can request vaccination by submitting an Inmate Care Request form (ICR), which is available in their housing units.
Because of rising case counts, in-person visits have been temporarily suspended at both prisons, the corrections department said on its COVID-19 webpage.
According to Felsted, 19 staffers for the Utah Department of Corrections were sick with COVID-19 as of Monday. Since corrections employees often move between facilities, she said staffer case counts for specific prisons were not available.
Any staffer or inmate who reports symptoms is tested promptly and isolated, Felsted said. Staffers with symptoms have been told to stay home.
Corrections staff and inmates are required to wear a cloth mask when social distancing isn’t possible. All incarcerated individuals are given two cloth face coverings, and they can request replacements should the masks show sign of wear, according to the corrections department’s FAQ webpage.
Davis County Jail
The outbreak at the Davis County Jail was announced last week, after two individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms tested positive through a rapid test, according to a news release from the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. The inmates were isolated from others and received medical treatment.
Other inmates in that housing facility then received mandatory rapid tests, which turned up 24 total cases. By Monday, that number had grown to 35, or about 7% of the jail’s population of 480. Six others were being monitored for exposure.
All staffers and inmates will be tested, and each will also receive rapid tests every five to seven days over the next two weeks, the release said.
“I am proud of our correctional officers and staff who have worked very hard and have been very successful at keeping COVID out of our jail for many months,” Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks said. “These latest infections are unfortunate and we will continue to work hard to care for those who are ill and limit the spread of this virus in the jail.”
In an effort to prevent the outbreak from growing, access to the jail has been temporarily limited to correctional personnel only, according to the release. Inmates may still visit with loved ones via video call, the release noted.
About 38% of Davis County inmates have been vaccinated, the sheriff’s office announced last week. The county health department offers vaccine clinics at the jail every three weeks.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said vaccinated staffers are required to be tested for COVID-19 once a week, and staffers who are not vaccinated must be tested at the start of every shift. All employees are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
To help prevent COVID-19, the jail has been requiring all individuals to wear masks inside the facility. Staffers and contract providers must submit to daily temperature checks, and all areas of the jail are frequently sanitized. Inmates are also tested for COVID-19, and anyone initially entering custody must complete a 14-day quarantine.
Salt Lake County Jail
Nine inmates in the Salt Lake County Jail are sick with COVID-19, or 0.5% of its population of 1,731, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Brittany Karzen said Tuesday. On Dec. 30, four inmates were infected, according to the office’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The Salt Lake County Health Department offers vaccinations to inmates in the jail multiple times a week. But since people stay in the jail for an average of 24 days, and they are usually already vaccinated when they arrive, it is difficult to tally how many inmates have been vaccinated, Karzen said.
According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, the county health department has distributed 889 vaccinations in corrections and detention facilities overall.
No inmates have died of COVID-19 in the Salt Lake County Jail, Karzen said Tuesday.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, jail staffers are required to wear masks. Other prevention measures include social distancing, enhanced cleaning practices and mitigating exposure if an inmate tests positive.
Weber County Jail
Out of approximately 630 inmates currently incarcerated at the Weber County Jail, four are infected with COVID-19, or about 0.6%, Lt. Joshua Marigoni with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. Two staffers were sick as of Monday.
About half of the inmates have been vaccinated, Marigoni said Monday. Staffers administer vaccinations to any inmate who requests one, he said.
“We have been adjusting protocols frequently, and have had a lot of success managing COVID in our facility,” Marigoni said. The jail hasn’t made any drastic changes to its procedures recently, he added.
Officials in Washington County did not respond to repeated requests for information about COVID-19 in the county’s jail.