How Maricopa County jails are handling the COVID-19 spread

The Maricopa County Sheriff two weeks ago noted the tricky nature of running prisons in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in the business of close proximity, putting our hands on people, those who have either committed crimes or pose a threat in someway. That is the nature of public safety," said sheriff Paul Penzone on March 31.

On Monday, April 13th, county health officials say so far so good when it comes to zero inmates testing positive for the virus in the county.

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“We have had no positive tests returned for inmates in our care," said Grant Phillips with Maricopa County's Correctional Health Services.

The latest numbers from Friday indicate the 28 inmates have been tested, 21 of them have been negative, with the other seven being cared for while waiting for their results.

“We understand that a complete quarantine is not realistic,” Phillips said.

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County officials say they have made changes to staff protocol in prisons to handle the COVID-19 spread.

“An inmate entering a facility undergoes additional screening at the time of intake to determine the presence of fever, respiratory infection, recent travel, or contact with persons who are known to be infected with COVID-19," Phillips explained.

More testing means more data. More information means a better understanding of how to protect prisoners.

“We have a good supply of COVID-19 tests, and by good supply I mean that anyone who meets clinical or exposure criteria for COVID-19 tests, will be administered that test and put into medical observation.”