The Clinton County Jail is recovering from its first outbreak of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
"We had gone 18 months without any cases at all in the jail," Clinton County Sheriff Larry Jerue said.
At its height in early December, the jail had 31 cases. The Sheriff says six of the 12 inmates still in quarantine won't make it out of isolation until after the holiday.
"We put everybody into isolation, moved people around. Medical staff gave outstanding care to those that were suffering from COVID," Jerue said. "Fortunately, all the cases have been minor cases."
Also fortunate, there were no hospitalizations. Medical Director for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department Jennifer Morse said this outbreak is really just a drop in the bucket.
"In the territory I cover, which is larger than just the Mid-Michigan District Health Department area, there have been several outbreaks in correctional facilities, and it goes with the territory," Morse said. "I mean, you have a lot of people in a close area, vaccination rates might not be as high in those populations, so it's almost an inevitability I hate to say."
The Clinton County Jail, which averages 105 inmates a day, offers the COVID-19 vaccine, though it's not mandated. At one point, the vaccination rate at the jail was 40 percent. Now, Jerue is unsure.
The outbreak has affected who is allowed in the jail and in what capacity through Jan. 15. This includes, attorneys, ministers, carolers and family members.
"As soon as we can open it up for visitation again, we certainly will," Jerue said. "But we can't put the inmates at risk nor can we put the general public at risk and it comes to a point where we have to hold off on those for the time being."
Jerue said through a grant, the jail was able to purchase $40,000 equipment to help prevent this type of outbreak from happening again.
"The county has purchased through a grant opportunity, new sterilization equipment that is ultraviolet light that is used in operating rooms," Jerue said.
In the last few days, Clinton County discovered its first case of the Omicron variant. As a whole, the county has been averaging 350 new cases every week. Case numbers are trending down, but remain high.
"We've seen some drops like this before, so we're cautiously optimistic," Morse said. "Especially with Omicron coming into the area and the holidays coming."
Morse said 75 percent of all cases in the U.S. are the Omicron variant, so she expects it to spread rather quickly, and encourages those who have not already been vaccinated to do so.
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