27 inmates at Cass County Jail test positive for coronavirus

The virus was confirmed to have spread to 27 inmates and three staff members after the first case was confirmed in the general population, Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said.

National Guard Staff Sgt. Dane Kruger and Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner are seen Tuesday, May 19. The Guard and the sheriff's office worked together to test all county jail inmates and staff for the coronavirus as a preventative measure. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — About two dozen Cass County Jail inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus after the facility found a case last week in the general population .

The virus was confirmed in 27 inmates and three staff members, Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said Thursday, Dec. 3. Tests were given to 260 inmates in general population and 102 employees.

All cases were found in one pod, Jahner said. Most are asymptomatic, according to a news release. A few inmates have mild symptoms, but they do not require hospitalization, the release said.

The jail has been in lockdown since the morning of Friday, Nov. 27. That’s when staff discovered an inmate in general population tested positive.


It was the first time the jail had a known case in its general inmate population. Intakes are quarantined for five days before going into the jail to be with other inmates.

Typically, the jail would test intakes only if they showed symptoms, Jahner said. Nurses check on the quarantined inmates frequently to see if they develop symptoms, he added.

If they showed signs of the virus, they were tested, Jahner said.

The general population inmate who tested positive before Friday’s lockdown went through that process after being booked into the jail on Nov. 13, Jahner previously told The Forum. The inmate didn’t show symptoms until they were bunked with another inmate, Jahner said.

The cellmate’s test taken before the lockdown came back negative, the sheriff said.

About 40 inmates are in isolation since they were recently booked into the jail. They were not tested in Monday's batch because they previously received coronavirus tests when they came to the facility, Jahner said.

To be on the safe side, most new intakes are now receiving tests, Jahner said.


The jail will perform follow-up testing on Monday as a precaution, Jahner said Thursday. After that, the lockdown is expected to be lifted if there are no new cases found in other pods, he said.

Jahner said he doesn’t expect the virus reached other parts of the jail. He attributed the low number of infections to the lockdown and policy that requires inmates to wear masks in congregation areas. Masking, social distancing, frequent cleaning and other tactics also have likely prevented outbreaks, he said.

“Although one is too many, we feel like we will have a pretty good handle on keeping it contained,” Jahner said.

Jahner's office will review and update policy as needed, as the inmate safety is a top priority, the release said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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