Eight inmates at Johnson County’s New Century Adult Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being isolated from the other inmates in the Gardner facility, Sheriff Calvin Hayden confirmed Monday.
Hayden said the outbreak was detected late last week when one inmate came down with cold-like symptoms at the jail, which is just outside Gardner.
Since the inmate was in an eight-man cell, the other inmates were also given tests. All came back positive, although the others have not developed symptoms as of Monday, Hayden said.
A ninth inmate also tested positive on booking into Johnson County Jail in Olathe and is being quarantined there.
Custody intake procedures
The eight inmates at New Century who have tested positive have been moved to a medical section for the duration of what would be a 14-day quarantine, Hayden said, and symptoms of the first inmate have so far been mild.
None will be allowed back into the general population without a negative test.
Hayden said the source of the original case is still unknown.
Every person who is about to enter jail custody first gets a coronavirus test at the facility in Olathe. If a person in custody tests positive there, they remain at Olathe in order to avoid spreading it to the New Century facility.
The initial inmate who showed symptoms had tested negative twice before the move to Gardner, Hayden said.
That narrows the possibilities of the source of the outbreak to either a jail employee or an especially long incubation time before that first inmate tested positive, Hayden said.
Sheriff’s office masking policy
While deputies are not required by the sheriff’s office to wear masks when out in public, Hayden said the current policy is for jail employees to wear masks while on duty. He said that policy is being followed.
Inmates are not required to keep masks on within their cells.
New Century has up to ten eight-person cells, or pods, which consist of four bunk beds on each side of the room with a table in the middle. Most of the inmates there would be minimum security, he said.
“I don’t really like the eight-man modules for exactly this reason,” Hayden said. Having so many inmates together also makes it difficult to contain the spread of other infectious diseases.
The medical section of the jail has individual cells with an open day room. It also has a negative air flow. The inmates who tested positive are being monitored by staff wearing the appropriate personal protective gear, he said.
Meanwhile, other inmates with health issues will be seen in the jail infirmary and will not be in contact with the COVID-positive ones.
Last week, Hayden praised his staff for preventing any jail outbreaks despite 138 cases among his employees since the start of the pandemic. He said today he is still proud of their record.
The sheriff’s office is not participating in a county policy requiring most other county county workers to provide proof of vaccination or submit to regular COVID-19 testing.
Possible impact on court backlog
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said the COVID-19 outbreak at New Century is not likely to have an immediate impact on the court’s already mounting backlog.
That’s because on Friday, jury trials at the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe were suspended through the week of Sept. 7 due to concerns about the recent surge in cases brought on by the contagious Delta variant.
The courts were already facing a backlog in cases because of previous coronavirus shutdowns over the past year-and-a-half.
With five to ten jury trials in a typical week, the three-week hold will make it more difficult to meet the requirements for speedy trial, Howe said.
In March, Kansas lawmakers and Gov. Laura Kelly approved legislation that suspends the state’s speedy trial law until 2023.
Howe said he did not have a list of inmates or cases that would be affected by the outbreak at New Century.