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Nurse at Meck Co. Juvenile Detention Center tests positive for COVID-19

Updated: Apr. 2, 2020 at 3:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A nurse who worked at the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Detention Center has tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials say potential exposure appears to have been “extremely limited.”

On Sunday, March 22, a Wellpath nurse went to work at the Juvenile Detention Center and passed through the standard screening which includes a temperature read as well as questions regarding potential symptoms and exposures related to COVID-19.

Officials say this nurse had been on personal leave and had not worked in the facility since March 3. Her temperature was less than 100.4 degrees, she indicated no symptoms or exposures, and the nurse entered the facility to begin work, according to officials.

However, officials say less than 20 minutes later, the nurse reported differently and was sent home to self-quarantine.

She was tested for COVID-19 the following day and has not been back to work since. Late Wednesday, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office learned that this nurse has tested positive for COVID-19.

Both the Mecklenburg County Health Department and MCSO have investigated whether this nurse may have exposed anyone else while at the Juvenile Detention Center on March 22.

Officials say the nurse had not yet seen any patients and had briefly been in the presence of one other staff person – another Wellpath nurse. In an abundance of caution, that second Wellpath nurse – though she has shown no symptoms – has been quarantined and tested for COVID-19.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Wellpath has isolated nine persons with related symptoms and/or potential exposure to COVID-19. All of those cases were persons being arrested and coming into the Arrest Processing Center at Detention Center Central (none at the Juvenile Detention Center), all have been tested for the virus, and of the seven test results returned to date, all have been negative.

No other Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office staff or contractors have tested positive for COVID-19 and there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the detention population.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Wellpath, LLC to provide healthcare services to residents at both the main Detention Center Central as well as the Juvenile Detention Center.

Sheriff Garry McFadden says he is relieved that the potential exposure at the Juvenile Detention Center appears to have been extremely limited.

“The Sheriff is concerned for the nurse who is infected and prays for her speedy and full recovery. He also remains hopeful for news of the continued good health – and the soon return to work – of the second Wellpath Nurse who is currently quarantined,” a press release read.

MCSO officials say they continue to follow the CDC guidelines and is doing their best to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in the detention centers.

The sheriff spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Thursday afternoon. He said he is confident the nurse had limited contact with other people because of the surveillance footage he has seen.

“We can safely say that she did not come into contact with our juvenile population or any other staff members,” McFadden told WBTV.

He spoke about the precautions that have been taken in making sure employees and residents remain healthy. He said he has even ordered 30-gallon drums of hand sanitizer.

“I want to leave this to say we have the best, most secured detention facility in the nation. We do not want a positive result and we’re striving every day not to have a positive result," said the sheriff.

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