Twenty inmates and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Orange County Detention Center as of Monday, raising concerns about overall pandemic control in detention centers.
“It is difficult in the best of situations to prevent COVID in congregate living situations,” Alicia Stemper, the director of public information and special services for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said in an email.
Everyone who had contact with inmates and tested positive has received a PCR test, Stemper wrote. The detention center is working closely with the Orange County Health Department and Southern Health Partners to manage the outbreak, according to a county press release.
“No matter how careful you are, there is always the possibility there will be the introduction of a highly contagious disease in a congregant living situation,” Michael DeFranco, head of the communicable disease team at the Orange County Health Department (OCHD), said in an email.
A strike team — comprised of OCHD staff, emergency services and representatives from UNC and Duke hospitals — makes frequent trips to the detention center and other congregate living facilities to conduct evaluations and provide feedback and guidance.
“We will continue to work closely with all congregant living facilities as we have done throughout the pandemic,” DeFranco said.
For the current outbreak at the detention center, DeFranco said the OCHD epidemiological team has maintained frequent contact with the detention center to provide PPE, tracing, testing and suggestions for improvements in facility health protocols.
“The detention center and OHCD work together to produce the best outcomes,” DeFranco wrote.
According to the county's press release, the detention center's protocol for a positive test is to remove that person from the general population of the facility, and place them in an area that has high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems installed.