PDPHE: Pueblo County Jail no longer considered a COVID-19 outbreak facility

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PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. — The Pueblo County Jail is no longer considered a COVID-19 outbreak facility.

According to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment made the announcement after the jail reported no new cases of COVID-19 among inmates or employees during the past 28 days.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment defines an outbreak at a facility after having two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 during a 14-day period.

“This is great news,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor. “We have been working hard
for the past eight and half months to contain the spread of the virus in our jail. The diligent work by
employees and inmates who have undergone weekly testing, ongoing sanitizing to the facility,
wearing masks and getting vaccinated has helped us finally put an end to this outbreak.”

With the resolution of the outbreak, Taylor said beneficial inmate programs that were suspended
can resume.

“Our jail has basically been on lockdown throughout this outbreak and now we will be able to
get back to delivering programs such as our domestic violence classes, substance abuse classes
and religious services, which are all so important to this population,” Taylor said.

Correctional facility and jail officials say their facilities are at a higher risk of exposure to viruses as it is very difficult to socially distance.

According to the sheriff’s office, sheriff’s office employees and inmates have been tested for COVID-19 at least once a week since October 2020. At the beginning of the outbreak, twice weekly testing of inmates and employees was conducted at the jail in partnership with the Colorado National Guard.

At the height of the outbreak, 86% percent of the inmates tested positive for COVID-19. There were no deaths reported due to COVID-19 among employees or inmates who tested positive.

“By testing every week and at one point, twice a week, we were able to catch some
asymptomatic people and get them isolated even before they showed symptoms and knew they had the virus,” said Sheriff Taylor.

Jail officials say the facility also implemented protocols to help reduce the spread of the virus which led to steady declines in COVID-19 cases. Tactics included increased screenings, wearing of protective face masks and ongoing sanitization throughout the facility.

According to the sheriff’s office, the inmate population also was reduced when Chief Judge Deborah Eyler requested some low-level offenders be released from jail. A court order also allowed law enforcement discretion in whether to arrest or issue citations for individuals involved in certain civil, traffic or misdemeanor offenses. The mandate has since been lifted.

In early June, the Sheriff’s Office in partnership with PDPHE, began administering COVID-19 vaccines to inmates housed in the jail of which 178 inmates received the vaccine. Vaccines were also made available to all sheriff’s employees.

“We aggressively responded to the pandemic and in particular the outbreak in our facility and
ensured we implemented processes and procedures to help control the spread of the virus,” Taylor said. “The safety and health of our employees, inmates and the public continue to be our top priority.”

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