A significant coronavirus outbreak is occurring inside the King County Jail, with 19 cases detected on Monday alone.
The outbreak accounts for most of the 46 total cases among the in-custody population at the downtown Seattle facility and inside the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.
Additionally, seven department employees — all of them assigned to the jail in downtown Seattle — have tested positive since March 9, spokesperson Noah Hagland said in a Wednesday email.
Of the most recent cases among people in custody, one person tested positive during booking while the others were identified after reporting symptoms or through contact and surveillance testing in housing units, Hagland wrote.
People in custody who have tested positive for the virus have all now been moved to the Kent facility, which has been used since the start of the pandemic to house those exhibiting symptoms and those considered at high risk of contracting the virus.
Jail Health Services plans to administer COVID-19 tests to all others in custody at the Seattle jail this week. The department also is working to bring in a contractor to conduct enhanced cleaning of the facility, and to boost cleaning procedures already in place throughout the pandemic, the email says.
Due to supply shortages, most of the people in custody have been given cloth masks, with surgical masks reserved for higher-risk groups, including incarcerated people who work inside the jail and those in medical isolation or quarantine, according to the department. Since the spike in cases, the department is working to make surgical masks more widely available this week.
People in custody age 65 and older have already received vaccinations and DAJD employees who work in secure detention recently became eligible to get their shots under Phase 1B, Tier 2 of the state’s vaccine rollout.
Most incarcerated people under age 65 aren’t eligible to get the vaccine until the end of March, but vaccination clinics are tentatively being planned to begin administering doses on April 6, Hagland said in his email.
In early December, 16 people in custody tested positive for the coronavirus after a person who initially tested negative upon booking a month earlier came down with flu-like symptoms, DAJD previously reported. Prior to the December outbreak, 47 people inside the two jail facilities had tested positive.
In the past year, the adult jail population has been reduced by more than 550 people, with a current population of 1,345, according to DAJD’s data dashboard. Of the 24 juveniles currently in detention, down from 43 in March 2020, zero have recently tested positive for the coronavirus, the data shows.
Among people incarcerated in the state’s prisons or on work release, there were 31 new confirmed cases in the last 30 days, though only four were considered active cases on Wednesday, according to information posted online by the Department of Corrections (DOC). Out of 6,187 cases confirmed positive by DOC throughout the pandemic, most people have recovered. Fourteen people in DOC custody have died, the data shows.