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OPSO Update Regarding COVID-19 Testing and Precautions - Oct. 16

NEW ORLEANS - 10-16-2020

Following is a joint statement from Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Compliance Director Darnley R. Hodge regarding ongoing health monitoring of inmates and OPSO staff and contractors, as well as established precautions at the Orleans Justice Center (OJC) related COVID-19 prevention and treatment:

TODAY'S UPDATE:

"We have completed phase V of COVID-19 testing and there are currently 10 positive inmate cases out of the 922 inmates in OPSO custody. This is a decrease of 66 cases from the 76 positive cases that were confirmed in our update on Sept. 18 following phase IV testing.

In addition, five OPSO staff members are currently positive for COVID-19 as compared to the 21 cases recorded in our last update. For OPSO's contracted medical provider, Wellpath, the number of employees currently positive is one.

Throughout the pandemic and currently, we have conducted an aggressive screening and testing process in partnership with Tulane University, followed a strict protocol to segregate positive and potentially positive cases from other inmates, educated inmates and staff on prevention methods and followed a detailed treatment plan. We are pleased to see our case numbers gradually decreasing once again and hope to continue on this path.

Phase VI mass testing for all employees and contract workers is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20 and Thursday, Oct. 22. Phase VI mass testing for inmates will resume a short time later.

We are continuing to re-enforce the need for each and every member of our OPSO community to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office has a plan in place for illnesses such as pandemic flu, which has been modified to better fit the recommended COVID-19 response procedures. We are in regular communication with the New Orleans Department of Health, the Louisiana Office of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the public, our staff and our inmates and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Following is a summary of the prevention and treatment measures that are in force at all OPSO facilities:

  • On March 17, 2020, OPSO suspended all inmate transportation to the courts.
  • Our medical department, Wellpath, has developed a coronavirus screening process for all new arrestees, current inmates and anyone who enters our facilities. This screening includes temperature screenings with the latest technology and several targeted questions surrounding their activities and interactions over the past 14 days.
  • In addition to daily temperature screening, all inmates with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 undergo pulse oximeter checks twice daily.
  • At this time, all non-essential visits to OPSO facilities are suspended.
  • Attorney-client visits and inmates' first appearances have shifted to video conferencing only.
  • In keeping with normal routine, we are dispensing soap and other toiletries to inmates free of charge and staff is directing inmates to wash their hands frequently. The OPSO is also working to ensure that it is equipped with enough supplies to combat COVID-19 on a prolonged basis.
  • Security personnel limit the number of inmates that are allowed out at any one time to increase social distancing.
  • Accommodations have also been made to quarantine any affected individuals in segregated cells. This protocol includes inmates that are being treated for non-COVID-19 health issues and according to the direction of the OPSO medical staff.
  • OPSO staff is vigorously cleaning the facilities and hand sanitation stations have also been installed throughout the Orleans Justice Center.

All OPSO employees and contractors have been notified of this plan, advised on ways to avoid exposure to the virus, encouraged to practice social distancing and urged to notify their supervisors and stay home if they are feeling ill. Specifically, the OPSO has implemented the following procedures for staff:

  • All OPSO employees are to remain in or on their assigned areas or posts. OPSO staff are prohibited from visiting areas other than their designated posts.
  • At the OPSO entry screening point and before they enter the Orleans Justice Center, OPSO employees and contract personnel must self-report any contact they have had with an individual who has a presumptive positive or positive test for COVID-19.
  • All OPSO staff who call off-duty for potential COVID-19 symptoms for themselves or a family member are required to submit a medical clearance prior to reporting to their assigned post.

As an educational tool for inmates and staff, OPSO has produced a series of videos that have been airing on televisions across the facilities since the beginning of the pandemic. The videos focus on the severity of the outbreak and address how to identify signs and symptoms, ways to prevent the spread and employee protocol surrounding COVID-19.

We have established protocol to test individuals for the virus and report cases to the CDC and Department of Health immediately. We also have detailed instructions and procedures for treating that individual or, if necessary, properly transporting that person to a designated medical facility."


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