HANCOCK COUNTY — An outbreak of COVID-19 among inmates at the Hancock County Jail has forced officials with the Sheriff’s Department to go back to pandemic precautionary measures just as the county was starting to open up.

Officials at the jail learned earlier this week an inmate had tested positive for COVID-19 at a time when the jail had a total of 143 inmates. Of the 143 people, 25 of the inmates have tested positive for COVID over the course of the last couple days. Capt. Robert Harris, public information officer for the department said all of the inmates who tested positive have been moved to an isolation area away from the general population. None of the inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 are showing any type of health issues other than mild symptoms.

Harris noted they have already alerted officials with the Indiana Department of Health and Hancock County Department of Health about the outbreak and are following their recommendations.

Sheriff Brad Burkhart sent out new arrest orders to his deputies and the rest of county law enforcement agencies alerting them to revert back to pandemic procedures of issuing summons as opposed to arresting offenders.

“We are maintaining our strict protocols and trying to mitigate the spread further just as we have been doing for the last year,” Harris said. “We’ve locked things down again.”

That includes having isolation cells and blocks, increased cleaning and sanitizing processes, and they’re even using other tools including portable UV lights to sanitize areas and the air.

“Our jail staff and medical staff are still wearing masks, monitoring their own health, and conducting temperature checks regularly,” Harris said.

Jail officials have additionally stopped all non-essential visitors to the jail and will continue to do so as long as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb.

Since the beginning of the pandemic officials with Sheriff’s Department and jail officials have taken numerous safety steps to avoid and reduce COVID-19 cases in the facility and only recently, after state and county officials started opening things back up, started making arrests for things other than violent offenses and operating under the influence. During the height of the pandemic, officials kept jail inmate numbers well below 100 inmates and have slowly tried to get back to normal operating procedures.

“We’ve been pretty lucky this past year and were hoping we wouldn’t have an outbreak, but it happened and was probably inevitable,” Harris said.
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