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Effort started to contain COVID outbreak at county jail

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office is working closely with the Chautauqua County Health Department to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the Chautauqua County Jail.

Four inmates with symptoms of COVID-19 tested positive Tuesday morning, prompting Health Department staff, which includes the Jail Medical Unit, with assistance from Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services, to conduct testing of all inmates in the housing unit Tuesday afternoon and into Tuesday evening. Several correctional officers were also tested.

Out of 48 inmates tested, 26 tested positive. Out of seven corrections staff tested, one resulted positive.

Disease investigation and contact tracing is underway by public health staff. Because of concern for spread of the virus in a congregate setting, facility wide testing will be conducted Wednesday.

Inmates in the unit who tested positive have been isolated; those who tested negative have been quarantined. The Health Department has also appropriately isolated correctional staff who tested positive. The listed emergency contact for any inmate who has a confirmed positive test will be contacted by Sheriff’s Office staff.

More information will be released as soon as it is available.

Jail outbreaks have happened throughout the pandemic. Just last week in Erie County, District Attorney John J. Flynn’s office resumed reviewing cases of those convicted of low-level, non-violence offenses with 45 days or less remaining on their local jail sentences to reduce the inmate population and prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in the county jails.

The decision came after the Erie County Sheriff’s Office announced that 27 inmates housed within a specific area of the Erie County Correctional Facility had tested positive for COVID-19. Flynn’s review found three additional people who could be released from Erie County jails.

“In recent weeks, we have seen how the positivity rate can quickly increase throughout a community. This virus has the potential to spread rapidly through a jail population. In the interest of justice and public health, I consented to the early release of these individuals to allow them to serve the remainder of their sentence at home,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.

Chautauqua County undertook a similar review in late March, with about 30 inmates who were nearing the end of their sentences and who had been convicted of low-level crimes were released from the county jail. At the time, there had been no COVID-19 cases in the county jail.

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