For most of the coronavirus pandemic, Guilford County’s two jails have been able to avoid major outbreaks.

However, on Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department announced that 26 inmates in a housing pod inside the county jail in Greensboro had tested positive for COVID-19.

The problem became evident last week when three inmates in that facility were discovered to have a fever. According to a Jan. 13 press release from the department, those inmates were immediately quarantined, tested for COVID-19 and put under close observation by the jail’s medical staff.

Test results for all three inmates came back positive.  That led to virus tests being conducted on the other inmates in that housing pod. At about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the department got back the bad news that the test results revealed that 23 additional inmates also had COVID-19.

The Sheriff’s Department has taken a wide variety of steps to keep the coronavirus out of the jail including new checks for those entering the jail, close monitoring of anyone with suspicious symptoms, social distancing practices and regular deep cleaning of the facilities.  But even those precautions weren’t enough to keep the virus out of the jail.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, currently, the vast majority of those infected are asymptomatic and are being closely monitored by the jail’s medical staff.

The Jan. 13 press release states, “At the present time, there is no indication that this exposure spread beyond that one pod.”

However, in conjunction with both the Guilford County Health Department and Emergency Management Services, the Sheriff’s Department is implementing a plan to quickly test the other inmates in the Greensboro jail as well as jail staff.

There are also plans to test all residents and staff of the Guilford County jail in High Point in the near future.

On Wednesday, the department provided a description of the procedures being used at the two jails to prevent the entry and spread of the virus in the county’s two jails.

“Since mid-March 2020, the Sheriff’s Office has had a pro-active COVID-19 protocol in place. Upon entering either the Greensboro or High Point Detention Centers, all new residents are quarantined for fourteen days.  If they show no symptoms of COVID-19, they are then placed into a housing unit.  The housing units are sanitized twice daily and all employees entering the facilities have their temperature checked at the entrance.  All residents and staff are required to wear masks when not in their rooms or offices.  Over the last 10 months, these protocols have proven very effective in keeping Jail residents safe from exposure to the Coronavirus.”