Hughes County Sheriff Darin Johnson said Wednesday the Jail has its first COVID-19 cases.

In a short news release late Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 14, Johnson said the jail “has had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19. . . We have two inmates that were confirmed positive today. Their symptoms are being monitored with no serious health issues at this time. They are both being isolated from other inmates.”

Johnson said visitation at the jail has been suspended as well as programs such as “24/7.”

The 24/7 program is to enforce sobriety on people awaiting trial on a charge involving drugs or alcohol, or those on probation or parole, or as a condition in other cases, including having children returned to their homes. It involves people going in twice a day to the jail for testing to make sure they are not using drugs or alcohol.

Johnson said the Jail implemented its protocols already set up to deal with this sort of situation. Since March, reductions in the jail's population were made gradually for months so the facility could handle social distancing of inmates and any isolation or quarantining that might be required if an inmate got infected with COVID-19.

The jail’s capacity is 168 and in recent years has run fairly close to capacity much of the time, seeing “federal holds” as valuable revenue for the county for people awaiting trial or other dispositions in federal court. Often, the jail averaged about 160 people per day and the federal revenue totaled more than $2 million a year to the county in per diems from federal-hold inmates.

But a month ago, Johnson said the population was down to 136 as part of an effort since March to keep numbers lower than normal in light of the pandemic and the way the Jail would have to respond if it happened there.

Johnson said the information he could release about the two cases on Wednesday was limited by federal health privacy laws.

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