Covid crisis appears to be over at Grand Forks County jail
88 inmates tested positive last week.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — On Thanksgiving Day the number of inmates who are isolated due to the coronavirus at the Grand Forks County jail will drop from 88 to 7.
That was nearly half of the jail's inmate population. Despite the good news, the jail is taking the pandemic very seriously.
"The fear doesn't change," said jail administrator Bret Burkholder.
That's because it is still unknown how the virus got behind bars. Right now, all inmates are isolated for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended 14 days when they are booked. If they bunk with another inmate, the 14-day clock starts ticking when the last one was booked.
"My only guess, and it is only a guess, were those asymptomatic people were infectious well after those 14 days," commented Burkholder.
The facility does not test every inmate who arrives, but has recently been doing weekly mass testing events. However, results take anywhere from 24 hours to a week. Another mass test is scheduled for next week, but the jail is looking at more regular testing.
"We are looking at the various testing mechanisms coming, as soon as we have a rapid test we will utilize it," said Burkholder.
Normally, more than a dozen people are booked into the jail each day. For the past two weeks, that number was usually less than a handful, but the jail administrator wants the public to know nobody was given a get out of jail free card.
"With the help of law enforcement and courts, they prioritized," explained Burkholder.
Aside from squeezing inmates in, staffing was a huge issue. Three jail staff have tested positive. Jailers were forced to spend extra hours dressing in PPE gear, conduct more frequent checks on inmates and contact tracing. There was no way to get more help.
"The time it takes to ramp up people was not even an option, staff had to work extra hours, pick up extra shift here and there," said Burkholder.