Payne County Sheriff Kevin Woodward announced Monday that no additional staff members at the Payne County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. One week ago, Woodward learned that one of his jailers had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus at a clinic in Guthrie after feeling ill and being sent home from work the previous weekend.
That prompted a call for mass testing of all Sheriff’s office and jail employees and all inmates in the jail. By the next day, a strike team from the Oklahoma Department of Health that included several members of the Oklahoma National Guard had arrived, setting up a testing center with the capability of administering up to 380 tests.
The tests were also made available to the staff from other offices located in the Payne County Courthouse.
All jail inmates were tested and one inmate, who had transferred in from an other unspecified facility and was not showing any symptoms, tested positive for the virus. He remained under a 14-day quarantine at press time.
Jail Administrator Reese Lane previously told the News Press that all inmates arriving at the Payne County Detention Center are held in quarantine cells for 14 days, although most bond out before that period ends. The remainder who are serving sentences or don’t make bond, move into the jail’s general population.
On Tuesday, Lane said the jail’s population was about 184, considerably lower than the 230-240 it usually housed before the pandemic began.
People accused of minor crimes are currently being released on Personal Recognizance bonds instead of holding them in jail, in an effort to keep the jail’s population down and prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the facility.
Communal living facilities like long-term care centers and correctional facilities have been the source of serious outbreaks in other areas of the state and the nation.
Woodward said Payne Count District Judge Phillip Corley approved a revised emergency bond schedule around February that allows people charged with things like petit larceny, many first-time alcohol and drug-related offenses and traffic offenses to automatically qualify for release on their own recognizance.
According to the list, a few other charges could be eligible, but require calling the judge for approval.
The jail has also transitioned to holding all visitation via video, to limit contact and prevent the spread of the virus.