Omicron hits county jails 

  • An inmate at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow receives a COVID-19 vaccine recently. HAMPDEN COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

  • Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2022 2:49:44 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 2:48:51 PM

Jails throughout the Pioneer Valley are coping with outbreaks of COVID-19 among their inmate and detainee populations, as well as staff, but so far during the unprecedented spike in cases nationwide due to the omicron variant, no local sheriff’s departments have reported serious illness, hospitalization or death in their facilities.

Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan said Wednesday that 28 inmates at the county jail in Greenfield are under medical quarantine — five of whom are unvaccinated — and 12 staff members are out of work after testing positive for COVID-19. Asymptomatic staff members can return after five days, in accordance with the latest CDC guidance.

“It took two years for COVID to find us, but I think that (the omicron variant) was too much for us to handle,” Donelan said. “The best chance is that staff brought it in. That’s what we’ve always feared.”

Donelan said the jail is “a fully vaccinated facility” in terms of staff, while more than 80% of the inmate population is vaccinated. But with the omicron variant’s high level of transmissibility, the current outbreak had “a sense of inevitability.”

Anyone who is symptomatic is showing “very mild flu- or cold-like symptoms,” Donelan said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,075 cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County in the seven days between Jan. 4 and Jan. 10, 20 new hospital admissions and a 68.4% vaccination rate in people who are eligible based on age, which is 5 and older.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.

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