MORRISTOWN, NJ – An inmate at the Morris County jail is in medical isolation today after testing positive for COVID-19, said the county Sheriff’s Office.

The announcement about the infected inmate came about 90 minutes after the Sheriff’s Office announced that, in compliance with a state Supreme Court order, it was giving early release to 28 non-violent offenders. The inmate releases were done as a means of protecting them from acquiring the lung disorder.

In a statement discussing the inmate diagnosed with COVID-19, the Sheriff’s Office did not indicate whether it believed the person had come in contact with other inmates, including those being sent home.

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It did, however, say the inmate’s health had been monitored since he came to the jail several weeks ago.

A Slight Fever

“The affected inmate was admitted to the facility in early March and was part of a specific group of inmates who, for existing medical or mental health reasons, started having their temperatures taken on a daily basis as of last week as a precaution against the coronavirus,” said the Sheriff’s Office.

It said the inmate showed a slight fever when tested Saturday, prompting his immediate isolation. “A swab was submitted to a laboratory for COVID-19 testing and results received Tuesday showed he was positive for the virus,” said the Sheriff’s Office.

It noted that every person admitted to the jail during the past two weeks has been screened for COVID-19. Those tests include “a series of questions about health, travel and potential contact with others who have contracted the coronavirus.”

Ahead of the Curve

However, the Sheriff’s Office said temperature checks of new inmates began only last week.

“The Morris County Correctional Facility is taking every precaution to guard against transmission of COVID-19, for the health and safety of officers and staff and the inmates entrusted to its care,” said Morris County Sheriff James Gannon in a statement. “We are ahead of the curve on sanitation and safety protocols, but correctional facilities, because of the populations they house, can be susceptible to health risks.”

He said that, even before the virus prompted the declaration of state and federal emergencies, the jail began “intensive disinfection” of common areas and housing units.”

Since the beginning of the month, COVID-19 prevention measures at the jail include the following, according to the Sheriff’s Office:

Suspension of visits between inmates and family members

• Temperature checks of all officers, staff and contractors entering the facility

• An extensive cleaning schedule that enhances ordinary rigorous sanitation of the facility. It includes disinfection of all areas within all housing units every other day; daily disinfection of all generally-touched surfaces; daily disinfection and deep cleaning of the Medical Unit; availability of hand sanitizer to staff and permitted visitors.

• All new inmate admissions are screened in a facility vestibule prior to entering the building and have a temperature check and medical screening.

• Continuing a protocol started on March 5, the healthcare provider conducting Nurse’s Screening for all new admission inmates will ask the same travel and symptom questions presented to lawyers and professional visitors. If an inmate responds yes to any question, the healthcare provider shall notify custody staff to place the inmate in a cell by him or herself and call the Facility Physician to determine the next steps.

According to the state Department of Health, there are now 204 cases of COVID-19 in Morris County and 3,675 statewide. It said 44 people have died.

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