El Paso County Jail given orders to protect inmates from COVID-19, making masks mandatory

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A judge issued an order Monday morning outlining steps requiring the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to protect inmates and jail staff against COVID-19.

The preliminary injunction includes making masks mandatory within the facility, as the first steps in a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Colorado a couple of weeks ago.

According to the order filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Monday, both parties have stipulated and agreed to entry of the preliminary injunction without any admission of wrongdoing or violation of the law.

The ACLU said the jail had been failing to ensure inmates had masks, and even prohibiting their use, the court has ordered that the jail ensure all inmates have two cloth masks available at all times, and requires mask-wearing by all staff and inmates. This will help prevent further spread of the coronavirus in the jail.

Also included in the preliminary injunction is to provide clean water and not to deny access to drinking fountains and hot water otherwise available to inmates except for temporary
maintenance reasons. Deputies are also required to check the temperatures of the inmates twice daily, tell inmates their temperatures when taken, and tell CJC staff if the inmate whose temperature exceeds 99.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The order also requires the jail to house COVID-19 positive inmates in isolation from COVID-19 negative inmates. Also, at least one time per day, medical staff screen each COVID-19 positive
inmate by taking his/her vitals and doing a full symptom screening conducted by CJC
medical staff consistent with CDC guidelines.

During the daily symptom screenings, medical staff must inform inmates if they have any
of the symptoms for COVID-19, and they must tell each inmate the results of the checks
of their vitals.

According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office website, 1,084 inmates and 167 workers have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began but most occuring in the outbreak in late October. As of Monday, January 4 the El Paso County Jail has 12 inmates and six staff members have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Under the court order, the jail is required to provide weekly electronic copy of the roster to the ACLU with the total number of COVID-19 positive inmates, the number of COVID tests conducted during the prior week, and the number of inmates who tested positive for the virus from the previous week.

This preliminary injunction expires 90 days from January 4. For more information about the preliminary injunction read the full order here:

“It is the policy of the Sheriff’s Office not to comment on pending litigation.  However, we can say since the beginning of this pandemic we have taken, and will continue to take, appropriate steps to protect inmates in the El Paso County Jail from COVID-19. The Sheriff’s Office has continuously consulted with El Paso County Public Health, other County leadership, and the Colorado Department of Public Health in evaluating and determining our COVID-19 response. As this pandemic continues to evolve, the Sheriff’s Office  will continue to work diligently in collaboration with these partners, as we have since the onset of this pandemic.It’s important to remember the jail populations represents a unique and fluid subpopulation of El Paso County and beyond. Outbreaks such as the one we saw are a reflection of the larger burden of disease in the community.”

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office

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