Kent County jail sees first positive COVID-19 test

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County jail is dealing with its first case of coronavirus.

The inmate, who officials said was not displaying symptoms, was isolated and then tested after jail staff learned a family member had tested positive for coronavirus.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said that after the man was arrested by Grand Rapids police Thursday, April 23, he was screened for symptoms and exposure risks. The officers who booked him into the jail were wearing masks and gloves.

The inmate spent the night in an intake call. On Friday, he was held alone in a cell in the orientation unit, which the jail said was standard procedure.

On Saturday, the jail got a call informing them that a family member who lives in the same home as the inmate had tested positive for COVID-19. The inmate was immediately moved to an isolation cell so he wouldn’t have any contact with others.

The inmate was tested for the virus Monday, and the results came back positive Tuesday.

The inmate remains in isolation, the sheriff’s office said. All staff members who have contact with him are wearing personal protection equipment.

One other inmate had been exposed to him during intake. That person tested negative for COVID-19, but is being held in isolation anyway.

Authorities said the Kent County Health Department was conducting contact tracing for the inmate who tested positive.

The Grand Rapids Police Department said the officer who arrested the inmate tested negative for the virus. The department said its protocol is that in all instances of close contact with someone who shows symptoms of or tests positive for COVID-19, officers will isolate and be tested.

The sheriff’s office said it doesn’t think any of its staff members have been exposed, so none of them are isolating.

Sheriff’s office Lt. Joel Roon told News 8 that the jail, which normally has about 1,100 inmates, currently has fewer than 700. He said efforts have been made to reduce the population and therefore the risk of an outbreak. There has also been a slight drop in arrests.

In March, the Kent County sheriff outlined the procedures her staff is taking to try to keep the virus out of the jail. Those who are arrested are screened for symptoms before they arrive at the jail. If an inmate does develop symptoms, they are removed from general population and aren’t allowed back until they are symptom-free for at least 72 hours.

The jail has a decontamination area for law enforcement officers to sanitize their cars and change uniforms. It is also working with a Cascade Township-based company to clean units with a device that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses.