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Cass County Jail sees more coronavirus cases

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A Cass County Jail inmate appears via video for a court hearing. Jail officials now require inmates in common areas to wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO — Two more cases of coronavirus have been confirmed at the Cass County Jail since an inmate tested positive nearly three weeks ago , but Sheriff Jesse Jahner says the illness is not spreading inside the facility.

The jail reported its first case of COVID-19 on April 12 after booking a man into the facility just days earlier, Jahner previously told The Forum. That inmate has been in isolation but could be placed into the general population soon if doctors say he has fully recovered, the sheriff said this week.

“We’re going to have him go back to the hospital and get retested,” Jahner said.

Two more people who were booked into the jail tested positive and have been quarantined, Jahner said.

“We don’t have any confirmed cases in our general (population),” he said, adding that none of his officers have tested positive for the illness.

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The jail isolates incoming inmates for up to five days when they are first brought to the facility. New inmates also are screened and monitored for symptoms. Some are released on bail before they are moved into the general population, Jahner said.

Jail staff offered cloth masks to inmates shortly after the facility’s first case was confirmed. Jail chaplains and volunteer groups made the masks for the inmates and about half accepted them, Jahner said.

Masks are now required in areas where inmates can interact with each other in close proximity, he said.

The jail has not required its officers to get tests, though many have on their own. A number of them did so last weekend at the Fargodome, the sheriff said.

Jahner said his staff are taking many precautions to avoid infection, including frequently cleaning areas and wearing personal protective equipment.

"I’m concerned that they are in there every day with it," he said. "But because of the amount of precautions we’re using, I feel fairly comfortable that I don’t go home and worry about it every day.”

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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