COVID cases increase in outbreak at Garfield County community corrections facility in Rifle |

COVID cases increase in outbreak at Garfield County community corrections facility in Rifle

CDPHE rapid response team to do more testing

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased to eight at the Garfield County Criminal Justice facility in Rifle.

Six clients of the county’s residential community corrections program and two staff members have now tested positive for COVID, according to a Wednesday evening press release from Garfield County.

On Thursday, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) rapid response team is scheduled to test all clients and staff, including those who have been tested previously, according to the news release.

Officials were notified Tuesday of four COVID positive cases at the facility, and notifications of positive test results for three additional cases were received later Tuesday and another on Wednesday.

A quarantine of all individuals who were in the facility and may have been exposed remains in place.

Some clients of the facility commented on the Post Independent’s initial story Tuesday that health-safety protocols to prevent spread of COVID-19 were lax. County corrections officials said that is not the case.

“The community corrections facility had an established cleaning structure in place before the first case of COVID-19 presented over the weekend,” according to the release, as well as a statement sent in response to questions posed by the Post Independent.

“Cleaning protocols were strengthened when the first case presented,” according to the statement. “In March of this year, sanitizing was increased to include provision of sanitizing wipes for commonly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, in restrooms and in common areas.”

When the first positive test was confirmed over the weekend, all cleaning supplies were provided in the common areas for both the male and female living spaces 24 hours a day. Vehicles used for client transportation and surfaces where people have routine contact are also regularly sanitized, corrections officials said.

The community corrections program is designed as a transitional program to prepare clients who have been convicted of crimes to live independently after incarceration.

Many of the clients work outside of the facility, and are supervised in caring for their own needs inside the facility. Personal responsibility is a big part of that, the county’s release went on to state.

“Frequent and routine cleaning is a part of the requirements of clients to meet the standards of preparing to live on their own after their release. Staff has increased cleaning protocols to include cleaning after every single use of the restrooms, and as always after any use of the common areas.”

In addition, the use of protective masks is required of staff and encouraged for clients, the release states.

Garfield County Public Health staff began working on contact investigations in the correctional facility over the weekend, but the matter did not come up during the weekly Public Health update to county commissioners on Monday.

“The department was awaiting test results early this week to identify and determine whether or not there was a COVID outbreak in the facility,” the release went on to say.

An outbreak is defined by public health officials as two or more cases traced to a single location.

“Public Health is working with the facility to conduct contact tracing, and has brought in CDPHE to do everything possible to protect the clients and staff of the facility,” the release states.

Each of the people testing positive is in isolation, and anyone else who may have been exposed is on quarantine.

Daily monitoring of temperatures has been done for months, and some clients have reached out to their own health care providers to request testing, according to the release. Community corrections staff has worked to facilitate those accommodations, officials said.

There have been no transfers of clients to other facilities during this time, so the risk of spread to the county jail or other units is minimal, the release also stated.

Community corrections clients are still able to receive mail or care packages under the usual security protocols. However, they are not able to receive visitors, and their places of employment have been notified they will not be working while on quarantine. Clients are also not being charged rent for the program during the quarantine period.

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