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Inmate population testing positive for COVID-19

sherriff wilde

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde says an inmate showed symptoms of COVID-19 last week. He was isolated and tested. Those tests came back positive late Friday. Eastern Idaho Public Health said all inmates in that housing unit needed to be tested. Those results came back late Tuesday.

During a press conference Wednesday, the sheriff says 34 out of the 35 people being housed in this unit have tested positive for COVID-19. The sheriff says those inmates are asymptomatic. 

You can view the official statement from Bonneville County Sheriff's Office here.

“The jail has been very good about using their masks and making sure that we’re taking best precautions," Sheriff Wilde said. "But even the best precautions, we still have it in our community. So, we still have it in our jail.”

Skylar Briggs recently bonded out from Bonneville County Jail. “From my perspective, everybody was in there coughing,” Briggs said.

Briggs says the jail staff denied the presence of COVID-19 in their facility, even though inmates and staff both appear to be sick. He claims jail staff were rude to him for being concerned for his own safety.

“I feel like the jail is not as clean as they say it is, I mean, the cell I was put into was absolutely disgusting," Briggs said. "Food just left on the floor and they don’t clean them like they’re supposed to.”

Three staff members have also tested positive. Those jail staff have self-isolated and been off-duty. Two of them have returned to work.

“To me, them going to each pod, one officer going to each pod. It’s just a way to spread the virus throughout the jail,” Briggs said.

Jail staff have implemented procedures to keep that housing unit isolated in an effort to slow or stop the spread.

Inmates are not moving from unit to unit. Staff routinely check on inmates in every housing unit every 30 minutes to monitor their overall health and wellbeing.

“This is no different than the rest of the community," Sheriff Wilde said. "A virus spreads through the jail just like it spreads through a community, and we will maintain and monitor our inmates to make sure that people are safe and taken care of.”

The jail is currently holding 312 inmates out of their 525 max capacity. The sheriff says they are writing citations for misdemeanors instead of booking people into jail. He says all inmates are screened and isolated when they first enter the jail. He also says staff is cleaning and sanitizing routinely.

Brittany Stamper is engaged to the first inmate who tested positive inside the jail. 

“I know that he says that he still, his head’s pounding, his entire body, all of his joints, the ache, like it’s terrible," Stamper said. "He says it’s barely bearable.”

The sheriff says jail staff have made Tylenol more readily available to inmates due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“One other thing I’m curious, what are they doing about the one inmate that’s not positive for corona in that dorm, if they can’t move him because he’s been in contact?" Stamper said. "I mean, is he just a sitting duck waiting to get sick?”

This question was posed to Bonneville County Sergeant Bryan Lovell and he said the inmate will likely be monitored just like everyone else in the dorm. He will likely be moved out of the dorm as appropriately as needed and not left in the positive-testing dorm. Medical staff plans to test him again later this week to make sure his testing is negative before moving him.

Many inmates' loved ones have contacted the news station regarding this subject. They are showing a concern for inmates that may feel alone or unheard in this situation and doing their best to help represent the inmate population.

Bonneville County Sheriff's Office says if you are concerned for an incarcerated loved one, you can contact jail administration, Sheriff Wilde, or Jail Captain Brian Covert for answers to your questions.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus Coverage

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Chelsea Briar

Chelsea is a reporter and producer for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.


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