In a time when COVID-19 feels like it’s hiding around every corner, the Frederick County Adult Detention Center staff have managed to keep it from infecting inmates.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the adult detention center (ADC), has not had one inmate case of COVID-19 while in confinement, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. In Maryland, 3,090 inmates, plus 1,638 correctional staff, have tested positive since the pandemic began, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services told The Baltimore Sun.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Frederick County, the detention center staff follow a stringent intake process, which includes Wellpath, ADC’s contracted medical provider.
“The program is so successful here at the ADC because we started early and developed a plan with our correctional officers, leadership, and the local health department to mitigate risks to COVID-19,” Kathy Humbertson, Wellpath regional director of nursing, said in a prepared statement. “In addition, we have had ongoing collaboration throughout the pandemic to ensure it remains pertinent to the current situation.”
ADC leadership suspended all central booking March 21 when Maryland had 190 confirmed cases. Six days after the first local cases popped up, in mid-March, ADC canceled in-person visits and reviewed essential and non-essential personnel, video calls for attorneys and tele-health options for mental health, according to ADC officials. Workers also began decontaminating the facility on a scheduled basis with an approved chemical fogger.
Anyone who enters the detention center has their temperature checked and must wear a mask.
“Our success is a direct result of the effort of our staff to follow and enforce all of the ever-changing procedures related to this virus,” Maj. Michael Cronise, FCSO assistant corrections bureau chief, said. “Even though we are not considered ‘front-line’ staff, the superb performance of the Corrections Bureau personnel and Wellpath staff handling this pandemic cannot be overlooked.”
Initial hearings for newly arrested people are now held over the phone. After a commissioner decides to commit someone to the detention center, the arresting officer takes the person to ADC for processing, according to the sheriff’s office. The ADC averages about 30 intakes a month now, compared to 300 before the pandemic.
A new inmate immediately has their temperature checked and completes a COVID-19 questionnaire. The inmate is placed in a holding area for 24 hours, and within four hours they receive a full health screening from a Wellpath nurse, per ADC officials. These screenings include measuring the inmate’s height, weight, vitals, assessing their full medical history and suicide risk, reviewing medications, testing women for pregnancy and completing another COVID-19 questionnaire. When these steps are complete, the nurse schedules a 14-day follow-up appointment.
Once an inmate’s 24-hour hold period is over, they are moved to a quarantined area in the detention center, where the sheriff’s office says they remain for 14 days. Throughout this time, inmates get temperature checks and symptom screenings twice a day from a Wellpath nurse. If an inmate finishes this quarantine without showing signs of COVID-19, they can enter the general ADC population.
If an inmate shows signs of COVID-19, correctional officers take them to the ADC medical unit where they are put in negative pressure isolation room and constantly monitored by nursing staff and medical providers, according to the sheriff’s office. Wellpath staff administer COVID-19 tests on site and results turn around within 48 to 72 hours. The medical provider also tests all inmates who must leave the facility for medical services or other programs.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins praised the ADC staff and inmates for their work to keep COVID-19 at bay.
“I want to recognize and commend the entire ADC staff for their commitment and diligence in adhering to best practices and the rapidly changing restrictions to keep COVID[-19] out of the detention center and inmate population,” Jenkins said in a prepared statement. “The administrators, along with our medical providers, set strict policies and the correctional officers have diligently and successfully carried out these practices to date. Additionally, the inmates deserve credit for maintaining their own good sanitation practices.”
Across the state, 18 total inmates have died from COVID-19, the Sun reported. Five died in December alone. The recent deaths come amid a spike in cases in the state and inside state operated facilities, according to the state department of corrections.