44 inmates, 2 staff with COVID-19 at Lexington, KY, jail

The Lexington Fayette Urban County Detention Center on Old Frankfort Pike in Lexington.

Since the Fayette County Detention Center identified its first case of COVID-19 among inmates on Monday, 44 inmates have tested positive for the virus.

So far, 93 inmates have been tested, the jail said in a news release Friday afternoon. Of those, 44 tests came back positive for coronavirus, while the test results for 32 inmates were pending. Seventeen inmates tested negative.

Under the guidance of the health department, Capt. Matthew LeMonds said, the jail has tested all inmates who were in the same housing unit as the first inmate who began showing symptoms and was tested Monday. All the positive cases have been identified through that group of inmates.

LeMonds said the health department advised that “at this time, other inmates and staff not previously identified as being in contact with infected inmates did not need to be tested.”

He said 18 staff members “who had direct contact with the inmates who tested positive” also were tested.

The jail said two of those employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Five employees tested negative, and 11 were awaiting results Friday.

Detention center employees who test positive will not be allowed to return to work until they have a negative test, according to the news release.

The jail said inmates who have COVID-19 are put “in medical isolation until they can be cleared by medical staff.”

Inmates who have been in contact with other inmates who have the virus but who test negative are being “moved to a new unit and quarantined,” the jail said.

The jail said new inmates have their temperatures taken before entering the detention center. Before they are placed in the general population, new inmates undergo a medical assessment and are quarantined for 14 days with other new inmates who are not showing symptoms.

There were 904 inmates in the jail as of Thursday, when five cases of coronavirus had been identified, LeMonds said.

The first inmate identified with coronavirus began feeling ill on Monday and was separated from other inmates and tested. The result came back positive on Tuesday.

That inmate has been in the detention center for more than six months. LeMonds said Thursday that jail and health department officials were working with inmates and staff to do contact tracing to try to determine how the virus got into the jail.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton stopped allowing visitors at the jail March 10.

On May 22, the jail began providing inmates with cloth face masks that are to be worn whenever inmates are outside their living areas.All staff are also required to wear masks, according to the jail.

Karla Ward is a native of Logan County who has worked as a reporter at the Herald-Leader for 18 years. She covers breaking news.

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