COVID-19 cluster at Buncombe County Detention Facility

From Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office:

Mass testing for COVID-19 at the Buncombe County Detention Facility began on Tuesday of this week, after seeing an increase in symptoms and positive tests among detainees. As of today 35 detainees have tested positive and 15 detention officers have also tested positive since the beginning of the outbreak. A significant number of these positive tests among staff are post-vaccination infections and a significant number of the 50 individuals are experiencing asymptomatic or mild symptoms. Additionally a number of detention officers and staff are in quarantine due to positive tests among their school-age children or other family members.

The Sheriff’s Office is working closely with Buncombe County Health and Human Services to ensure all public health protocols are followed during isolation, quarantine, and case investigations of positive test results for COVID-19 within the Detention Facility.

The detainees who have tested positive have been moved to an isolation unit where they are under medical watch meaning they will be observed four times per hour and monitored for any severe symptoms. Per CDC guidance for high-risk congregate setting and after consultation with Buncombe County HHS, all detainees at the Detention Facility are entering into a ten day quarantine protocol. The quarantine protocol means that detainees will only be allowed out once every 48 hours to use the showers and phone. Meal service will continue three times per day, but detainees will eat in their cells.

Enhanced cleaning protocols continue to be in place with the use of six electrostatic sprayers across the facility. All phones, tablets and kiosks are wiped clean by staff after use by each detainee.

During 2021, in an effort to encourage detainees in our care to get vaccinated, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office began offering $50 to anyone in our custody at the Detention Facility who gets a COVID vaccination from our medical staff. This effort helped raise the vaccination rate among those in our custody for more than a month to over 50%, however the vaccination rate among those entering the facility is much lower at approximately 15-20%. As of last week, 76% of staff at the Detention facility had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work closely with staff from Buncombe County Public Health and Buncombe County Employee Health on contact tracing. Positive test results for both staff and detainees at the Buncombe County Detention Facility are posted online as part of the NCDHHS Outbreaks and Clusters report.

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