CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Officials say 105 inmates are actively positive for coronavirus while 344 other inmates are either in isolation or quarantine at Mecklenburg County Detention Center-Central.
The number of inmates at Mecklenburg County Detention Center-Central (MCDCC) with active cases of COVID-19 continues to rise since the current outbreak began with two inmates on the 6th floor testing positive the week before Thanksgiving.
There are currently 105 inmates with COVID-19. The additional 344 inmates are housed in either isolation or quarantine because of potential exposures.
The 344 inmates in isolation are scheduled to be tested through Friday, and officials say they are expecting the number of active-positives to continue to rise into next week.
Inmates in respiratory isolation (positive, symptomatic, or deemed by medical providers to have experienced a significant risk of exposure) and respiratory quarantine (with a known, but less significant, exposure) are kept separate and apart from all others to mitigate potential spread among approximately 1,430 total inmates at MCDCC at this time.
Inmates in respiratory isolation and respiratory quarantine are not moved within the facility other than for safety or security concerns and, at the direction of local state and federal judges, not moved outside the facility for court appearances, according to jail officials.
Officials say inmates in respiratory isolation will often be tested for COVID-19 (when deemed appropriate by a medical provider) and will remain in respiratory isolation until either (a) they test negative, (b) a completed contact tracing rules out exposure, or (c) they are otherwise deemed by medical providers no longer to be contagious.
Respiratory quarantine is reportedly a “step-down” from respiratory isolation, where inmates will remain for 14 consecutive days – including any days spent in respiratory isolation – from the time of last known exposure.
Officials say the vast majority of the residents in respiratory isolation and respiratory quarantine are asymptomatic, while a few in respiratory isolation with the virus are displaying minor symptoms.
MCSO will also conduct mass COVID testing of employees and contracted service providers that work at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center this week in an attempt to identify people who may be asymptomatic and possibly contributing to the spread of the virus.
Officials say contact tracing and analysis performed by MCSO and contract healthcare provider Wellpath, Inc. suggests that the current outbreak was triggered by MCSO detention staff who worked shifts not knowing that they themselves were contagious with the virus.
“All staff (as well as visitors) are screened for fever, other symptoms, and potential exposures prior to being allowed to enter MCDCC, and staff are not permitted to work if they fail the screening. At present, 13 MCDCC detention staff are out of work and in quarantine at home having tested positive for COVID-19; a total of 58 detention staff have tested positive since the pandemic began,” the press release says.
Prior to the current spike of active-positive cases, MCDCC experienced one other spike above three active-positive inmates at any one time: on July 27, 2020, peaked at 48 active-positive inmates, but by early August was back down to three and remained with three or fewer active-positive inmates – often with zero active-positive inmates – for more than three months, until late November when the current outbreak began.
Edith Williams, a Charlotte resident, said she has a loved one who is currently housed in the Mecklenburg County Detention Center and has contracted COVID-19. She voiced concern about the way the pandemic has been handled in the facility.
“(I’m) extremely worried. You know, he has preexisting conditions that could affect him and he may not be able to recover at all fully from this, you know,” stated Williams.
She asked that her loved one not be identified out of fear that the individual could face retaliatory action after she spoke out. She explained that not only is she concerned about this person’s health, she is also worried about the way the situation is being handled with residents inside of the facility.
“I don’t want to say that they’re not trying, but clearly there’s another outbreak. I hear on the phone all the time that someone is sleeping outside of his bedroom, outside of his pod, his area. I just think that they’re not adequately doing and taking all the necessary precautions to make sure that every inmate is safe,” said Williams.
Law enforcement disagrees with that sentiment. Rodney Collins, the chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, spoke to WBTV in a phone interview Thursday night.
“I want to reassure everybody that we’re doing the absolute best that we can,” said Collins. “We have very competent healthcare providers. We’re in constant communication with them as well as public health and we’re really working diligently to make sure we keep everyone safe, try to minimize the spread of this virus and really provide the best possible care that we can.”
Williams said she would like for deputies to take a closer look at the way COVID protocols are being managed in the detention center.
“I want them to kind of look into deeper about how the procedures and the protocols they are taking to make sure the inmates are safer,” said Williams.