COVID outbreak in local jail reported Friday

By Ryan Carter -

An outbreak of COVID-19 within the Fayette County Jail facility was reported Friday afternoon by Fayette County Public Health (FCPH) and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO).

“FCPH, with assistance from Fayette Memorial Hospital, is in the process of testing inmates and jail staff,” said FCPH Deputy Health Commissioner Leigh Cannon in a press release. “FCSO is working diligently with FCPH to quickly identify cases, isolate and quarantine appropriately.”

Effective strategies to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 include isolation, quarantine and testing, according to Cannon.

Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said within the past week some jail staff members began exhibiting COVID symptoms.

“Primarily, it seems that the outbreak occurred with some jail staff members. They have been sent home and will quarantine from there,” said Stanforth. “At this point, I can’t tell you if any inmates have tested positive or how many staff members tested positive because the testing is ongoing, as well as the contact tracing. We have not closed the jail, but currently we are not taking any new admissions.”

Stanforth added that FCSO is working with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office to house any new inmates. The jail population is currently at around 56, according to Stanforth.

“We are trying to whittle that number down if possible,” Stanforth said. “It’s up to the courts to decide who can be released once they review each individual case. If it’s someone in jail for a probation violation and it’s not an egregious violation, the court will take that into consideration. But if an inmate is in the jail for a serious crime, they will stay in jail.”

On a daily basis, every effort has been made to sanitize the jail and keep inmates distanced from each other as much as possible, according to Stanforth.

“We try to minimize inmate movement as best we can, but it’s a difficult situation,” he said. “This type of COVID spread is happening at so many facilities and institutions across the country. It’s not just happening here. Unfortunately, COVID spread is going to continue to occur at high rates around the nation.”

The spread of COVID-19 continues to increase in Fayette County.

On Friday evening, FCPH reported 30 new cases (29 confirmed, one probable) of COVID in the county with three new recoveries. As of Friday, there were 12 individuals hospitalized and 69 total hospitalizations. There were 113 active cases reported.

“Please wear a mask while out in public, and social distance from others who are not living in your household,” said Cannon.

Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352.

By Ryan Carter