DeSoto County jail suspends visitation, trusty program after 11 inmates test positive for COVID

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HERNANDO, Miss. — Eleven inmates at the DeSoto County Jail have been quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday.

Until further notice, the jail has suspended its trusty program as well as all visitations. It has also handed out masks to all inmates and jail staff. Previously, inmates who left the facility were the only ones provided masks.

The outbreak was discovered Saturday when 17 inmates were tested after complaining of feeling sick, the sheriff’s office said.

Of the 11 inmates who tested positive, two were experiencing fevers and body aches while nine showed no symptoms.

The infected inmates are now being housed together but separate from other inmates and are receiving medical checks five times a day, the sheriff’s office said.

“I can assure you their health is better than it would be if they were at home,” Chief Deputy Justin Smith said.

All 11 inmates who tested positive are men and jail trusties, meaning they were allowed to leave the jail to perform assigned work.

WREG asked if providing masks to all inmates sooner would have made a difference, to which Smith replied, “Honestly, I don’t. I don’t. One, it would be cost-prohibitive to issue out somewhere around 500 masks per day. I don’t know if we could even get the availability for something like that.”

With 434 inmates and 100 staffers, the 11 infected inmates represent a two percent infection rate for the entire jail population.

Jail leaders say they’ve been working on a coronavirus response plan since before it reached pandemic status in March.

“We started addressing this thing back in January,” said Chad Wicker, director of detention services at the DeSoto County Jail.

“All offenders that came to the facility were quarantined for 14 days and we did that for about four months,” Wicker said. While that policy was discontinued, others remained throughout the pandemic.

“If you’re walking into the door, you’re immediately screened by medical staff,” said Smith.

The sheriff’s office said it is working with the state health department to have all inmates and staff tested, but couldn’t say when that would happen.

Last week, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office reported a total of 236 detainees had tested positive for the coronavirus and 231 had recovered. Among jail employees, 166 had tested positive and 130 had recovered.

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