More than two dozen Chaves County Detention Center inmates and some staff at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.
Clay Corn, administrator of the Detention Center, confirmed Tuesday that 25 detainees held in two of the prison’s housing units, commonly known as pods, have tested positive for the virus, while eight Detention Center staff have not come to work after testing positive.
The first case was found in an inmate who was a new arrival Aug. 28, Corn said.
“And then we started testing all staff and inmates,” he said.
Corn said all the cases have been asymptomatic, meaning individuals who test positive do not show or feel symptoms of infection. It is because of that that new inmates are often unwitting carriers of COVID-19.
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“They are coming in and getting booked into the facility. When they get screened they show no symptoms, no fever, no nothing,” he added.
Since then, the facility has worked diligently to curb transmission of the virus, contain those who test positive for it and operate in accordance with the New Mexico Department of Health guidelines, he said.
“Everything we are supposed to do we are doing it, and hopefully this thing will work itself out pretty quick,” he said.
Inmates and staff, he said, are tested on a weekly basis, and also regularly have their temperatures checked.
Housing units and common areas wi thin the detention unit, Corn added, are cleaned and sanitized six times a day.
Masks and hand sanitizer have been distributed to inmates at no cost, while individuals who do test positive are quarantined in their own housing unit. He added that the Detention Center has worked with courts and the District Attorney’s Office to limit people being sent to the facility for misdemeanors and lesser offenses.
He added the Detention Center, which has the ability to house 400 inmates, currently has a population of about 216.
Safeguarding against the pandemic had already substantially changed life at the facility for inmates.
In-person visits to inmates was suspended in March, with loved ones of inmates limited to contacting them through mailing letters, phone calls and electronic means. That restriction remains in place.
Clergy, substance abuse programs and educational programs were also suspended and will remain so at least until early next year, so as to limit access to the facility to Detention Center staff.
Congregate facilities such as nursing homes, detention centers, jails and prisons have a high rate of spread because the people there live in close proximity to each other, Corn said.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or firstname.lastname@example.org.