By Debra Moore
There is an outbreak of coronavirus at the Plumas County Correctional Facility and its commander expects the situation to worsen before it gets better.
As of today, Jan. 12, Chad Hermann said that 17 inmates and nine staff members have tested positive, which is roughly half of both populations.
There are currently 35 inmates housed at the county jail with a total available staff of 20. (Though the jail has a correctional staff allocation of 23, three positions are vacant.) Additionally, Hermann said that two staff members are on medical leave while another staff member is on maternity leave. That means half of the inmates and more than half of the staff are Covid positive.
How does that affect his ability to run the jail?
“The staff who haven’t been impacted are working multiple 12-hour shifts,” Hermann said. “The staff has stepped up.” Additionally Hermann has covered some shifts, as have some deputies.
When asked if staff members that have tested positive can work with inmates who have tested positive (as has happened at healthcare facilities) Hermann said, “No. Even if they’re asymptomatic we are taking them off shift.”
He’s certain that more staff and inmates will contract the virus because of the close proximity in the jail. “With the design of our facility we have done all that we can to separate people,” he said, but it’s not ideal.
Thus far all of the inmates who have tested positive are experiencing mild symptoms and are being treated at the jail. “They are receiving daily care,” he said. Inmates are also given disinfectant wipes, sprays and masks, though Hermann said they don’t always wear them.
When asked if staff and inmates have had the chance to be vaccinated, Hermann said that staff were able to receive their first dose of the vaccine last week, though he doesn’t know how many took the opportunity. As for inmates, plans are being made.
Hermann said he is aware of some public comments being made about the situation at the jail, including whether inmates should be released early. “If their time is served, we have to release them,” Hermann said, even if they are still positive. However, the opposite is true as well, inmates won’t be released early because they test positive or have the potential to be exposed. “The population that we have now, we are not comfortable releasing them,” he said.