The Boone County Sheriff’s Office has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at the Boone County Jail, where 25 inmates have tested positive for the disease since July 16, including eight who were vaccinated.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the BCSO created policies to protect staff, inmates and citizens. In late May of 2021, the BCSO began a “slow open” of the jail by lifting some COVID-19 restrictions and allowing more inmates to enter the facility.
“We were able to keep positive cases with our staff at a minimum and had zero cases with inmates,” a media release from the BCSO states. “This was not the norm throughout Indiana and the country. It was a group effort with many agencies in Boone County, including the Health Department, courts, Prosecutor’s Office, our medical provider, and law enforcement agencies.”
On July 16, an inmate tested positive, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 of an inmate in the facility. The inmate was quarantined, per CDC guidelines and policies of the jail’s medical provider and Quality Correctional Care, according to the BCSO. Face masks were issued to inmates who shared the block with the positive inmate, and inmates were encouraged to wear the masks at all times. The block was sanitized the next morning, and all inmates housed inside the block were offered a COVID-19 rapid test. No further positive cases were found. As a precaution, the affected block was placed in quarantine until July 19.
On July 23, two inmates from a different block tested positive. They were immediately removed and placed in quarantine. All inmates on the block were offered a COVID-19 rapid test. Of the inmates who consented to the test, four tested positive and were removed from the block and placed in quarantine. As a precaution, the entire affected block was placed in quarantine.
At that time, the BCSO began to work with the Indiana State Dept. of Health and the Boone County Health Dept. and reinstated its prior COVID-19 policies. In addition, the BCSO tested all willing inmates — 128 of the 132 housed at the jail. In total, 25 positive cases were confirmed as of July 30. All of the inmates who tested positive immediately began a 10-day quarantine.
Of the 25 inmates who tested positive, eight had been previously vaccinated. The BCSO is working with the ISDH to determine which variant of the disease the inmates tested positive for. The BCSO also offered all staff to take voluntarily a COVID-19 test. Of all tests completed, two employees tested positive. They also immediately began a 10-day quarantine.
“The rate that this virus has spread in our facility is very alarming to me,” Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen stated. “With the strict policies we had in place over the last 13 months we have been able to keep this virus out of our facility, not one case. We knew when we began to open the facility back up that we would probably get the virus into our facility but not to this level so quickly. I can assure you that we are doing everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus while making sure those infected are receiving the best medical care possible and at the same time trying to protect our dedicated staff that is working behind those secured walls every day.
“There are two things that we should all learn from this situation; (1) this pandemic is not over and (2) whatever variant this is that is in our facility spreads much quicker than we could have imagined. The (ISDH), our local health department, our medical provider, and our staff, continue to work around the clock to mitigate this threat and identify the breakthrough cases and the type of virus we have. I want to thank them for that dedication and assistance. Please MASK UP and GET VACCINATED, to protect those that are vulnerable and to protect yourself.”