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On Sunday, April 19, 2020, we learned that a deputy sheriff assigned to the Linn County Correctional Center tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The deputy last worked during the evening shift on Thursday, April 16th. He arrived to work fever-free, as verified through a process previously put in-place requiring the temperature to be taken of all persons entering the Correctional Center, but left work near the end of his shift when he became symptomatic with a 102 degree fever. A test for the COVID-19 virus was administered and the deputy learned that the test was positive. The deputy has been advised to remain in self-isolation until he meets the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines (PDF) for returning to work.
At the time that he became symptomatic, the infected employee was assigned duty as one of the 1st floor booking or intake deputies. The jail administration previously worked proactively with the court system to both reduce the number of inmates in-custody and limit the number of new inmates brought into the facility. This process lessened the number of inmates with whom the deputy would have had direct contact. Although enhanced cleaning activities were already being conducted in the jail on a continual basis, two more thorough sanitization procedures, to help reduce the chances of virus spread, have also occurred since the time that the deputy went home ill.
The jail administration worked cooperatively with and assisted the Linn County Public Health Department with their contact tracing process to identify those persons with whom the deputy may have inadvertently exposed to the virus. Exposure means that a person was within six feet for more than two minutes with the deputy who has been confirmed as having the virus. Exposure does not mean that the person has contracted the virus.
Eleven exposed coworkers have been identified and notified of the exposure. As essential services personnel, they will continue to report for duty as long as they remain asymptomatic, per IDPH guidelines.
In conferring with the Linn County Public Health Department, it was determined that no inmates were exposed to the virus by the infected deputy.
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner stated, “The health and safety of our employees and inmates are of paramount importance. Although we have taken numerous steps to help reduce the chances of the COVID-19 virus affecting our operations, an exposure to the virus was still a possibility. We will continue to follow the guidance and protocol of our public health professionals to help ensure that the virus does not spread throughout the facility.”
As part of that continued exposure reduction process, in addition to taking the temperature of all persons entering the Correctional Center, all employees and visitors are now required to wear a facemask when in the secure area of the Correctional Center. Additionally, facemasks are being provided to all inmates in the Linn County Correctional Center. While they are not required to wear them, they are being strongly encouraged to wear them.
Sheriff Brian Gardner will be present at today’s (April 20, 2020) Linn County COVID-19 press conference to present this information and address the media’s questions and concerns.