1st COVID-19 positive tests at Benton County jail; employee & inmate

Coronavirus

Inmate: "they tested 10 people and half of 'em had it"

BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Over the weekend, June 13-14, an employee and an inmate tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from Benton County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Shannon Jenkins.

This appears to be the first positive cases. “Over the last few months, inmates and deputies have been tested for COVID-19, with the results returning as negative,” said Jenkins.

Those who had positive tests returned were a-symptomatic, according to the release.

Currently, the Arkansas Department of Health is testing all inmates and employees.

PROTOCOL

Before entering the jail, each detainee is screened. Any person indicating they have symptoms is evaluated by medical staff and isolated if necessary. Those that the medical staff has determined to meet the criteria for testing will be tested. In addition, all inmates’ temperatures are taken twice daily and all inmates have access to medical.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office has followed and will continue to follow guidelines set by the CDC and Arkansas Department of Health.

INMATE CONCERNS

One Benton County jail inmate sent an email to his father, “Hey Dad they put the jail on quarantine. I’m gonna try to call you. They tested 10 people yesterday and half of ’em had it.”

This same inmate emailed his dad on Wednesday, June 10, with a concern about sick inmates and overcrowding the cells, he wrote in part: “Hey Dad do you think that it is crazy that they are sticking 3 to a cell right now with the coronavirus numbers at their highest and they were about to start putting 4 to a 2 man cell? It shows that the jail numbers are low to the public … It is more packed in here than ever right now.”

Another inmate wrote on Saturday, June 13, that a lockdown was in place and they’ve been quarantined ever since. “The health department, however, did come and tested 4 people in our barracks for the coronavirus. Then at around 2 a.m. last night the officers came and removed those same 4 people and “rehoused” them.” 

The inmate with the virus confirmed the quarantined. “I just thought that I would let you know that last night or early this morning they quarantined me with a few other inmates who were in the pod with me.” On Sunday, around noon, June 14, this inmate wrote that his symptoms had gotten worse — chest congestion, shortness of breath, body ache, and headache — and that he was tested. He said they are on lockdown and no one is allowed to use the phone. He also said crowded cells are an issue, social distancing is not happening and they [inmates] have no masks.

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