The Maricopa County Correctional Health Services and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office are tracking and responding to a rise in COVID-19 cases inside jail facilities, according to a release.
Since May 30, confirmed cases rose from six to 30, officials said. This represents the total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic officially reached Arizona.
According to the release, 23 of the cases are still in custody in four different jails, isolated from other inmates and receiving treatment from medical staff. Contact tracing took place immediately among the inmate population and staff in cooperation with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
MCSO is identifying staff that potentially had close contact with infected individuals, the release states.
The screening protocol implemented in March allows staff at Central Intake to immediately identify and isolate people with symptoms, or those considered at-risk — traveled outside the U.S. or the state or have had contact with a person who has COVID-19 — so they never enter the general population before being cleared of COVID-19. Every sick inmate is also tested for COVID-19 with 318 returning negative results to date, according to the release.
In addition to the screening protocol, all new inmates are placed in cohort housing where they stay for 14 days before entering the general population.
To further mitigate spread, MCSO has limited access to jails by program facilitators and volunteers and is only allowing essential personnel to have contact with inmates. Legal visits are still taking place in rooms with glass partitions or by video conference as requested by counsel. Inmates have access to soap and personal hygiene products, as well as printed materials with CDC guidance. They are provided masks, as are employees from MCSO and CHS, according to the release.
Working with the courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys, MCSO has significantly reduced the jail population to about 5,000 people in five jails, officials said. MCSO and CHS are working together to adjust housing plans that reduce movements and potential exposure to COVID-19.
CHS currently has 78 inmates in isolation awaiting results of COVID-19 tests, the release states. All people in the unit are tested and segregated from the general population and housed in individual holding cells to prevent exposure to others.