Morris County Jail reports ‘slow rise’ in COVID cases

The Morris County Jail in Morris Township. Photo courtesy of the Morris County Sheriff's Officer.
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Since New Year’s Eve, six inmates — 3.3 percent of prisoners–have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Morris County Jail in Morris Township, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office reported on Wednesday.

A dozen staffers there have tested positive since Nov. 12, 2020, in what the Sheriff’s Office characterized as a “small rise.”

The correctional facility had been COVID-free from mid-June until Nov. 12, after peaking in early spring with 19 staffers and 30 inmates infected. Those numbers represented 10 percent of the staff and 6.3 percent of prisoners.

A deep-cleaning, using a fogging process, was completed at the jail on Dec. 18, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Below is an update from the Sheriff’s Office.

From Morris County Sheriff James Gannon:

At the height of the pandemic in the early spring of 2020, the Morris County Correctional Facility had 19 staff members and 30 inmates test positive for COVID-19 equating to approximately 10 percent of the staff and 6.3 percent of the inmate population that was 141 inmates at the time.

On June 15, 2020, the final inmate involved in the initial surge was cleared from medical isolation after testing negative for the Novel Coronavirus, according to Capt. Steven Piatti who oversees health services at the correctional facility.

The correctional facility remained free of COVID-19 cases until November 122020, when a staff member reported being symptomatic – resulting in a positive test for the coronavirus.  One inmate then tested positive on December 31, 2020.

Since that resurgence of the virus in November, a total of 12 staff members and 6 inmates, or 3.3 percent of the inmate population, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Staff members who are symptomatic are required to seek diagnostic testing and follow quarantine procedures pending the outcome of their result, which is consistent with CDC guidelines.  Inmates reporting symptoms and/or registering a temperature of 100.4 or higher are immediately moved to Medical Isolation and tested under the direction of the facility’s full-time Medical Director.

The Morris County Correctional Facility took a proactive approach prior to this resurgence by soliciting the services of an outside contractor to perform a thorough fogging of the entire site. That deep cleaning was completed on Dec. 18, 2020.

In addition to the fogging, the Morris County Correctional Facility has had many other safeguards in place to mitigate the spreading of COVID-19 which include, but are not limited to:

  • All inmates are screened upon admission to the Facility;
  • All new admission inmates are placed into quarantine for a minimum of fourteen (14) days prior to being moved to a general population housing unit;
  • All inmates in new admission housing units have their temperatures checked once per day;
  • All inmates are issued a surgical mask which must be worn anytime they are out of their cell;
  • When possible, inmates are housed in a single cell and must remain socially distant when out of their cell;
  • All staff and contractors have their temperatures checked when arriving to the Facility.  If they have a temperature of 100.4 F or higher they are not permitted into the Facility;
  • All staff members are issued a mask which must be worn when social distancing cannot be maintained;
  • A strict cleaning and disinfection schedule has been implemented which includes the daily disinfection of all commonly touched surfaces; and
  • Since March 16, 2020, all contact family visits were suspended and program volunteers were temporarily put on-hold in order to greatly reduce the number of individuals entering the facility.

The Command Staff at the Morris County Sheriff’s Office are continuously monitoring the situation and will continue to make modifications to the daily regimen, when necessary, to ensure a safe environment of both staff and the inmate population within their custody.

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