All Dane County jail inmates to be tested for coronavirus

MADISON, Wis. (WISC/AP) — The National Guard has been summoned to help test nearly 600 inmates at the Dane County Jail for COVID-19 on Monday.

Sheriff Kalvin Barrett says there are record high coronavirus cases at the jail where nearly 90 inmates of the 597 incarcerated tested positive last week. The population inside the jail is the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic.

In a statement, officials said there are 54 positive cases among inmates as of Monday.

RELATED: COVID-19 cases continue climbing inside Dane Co. Jail; Nearly 16% of residents test positive

Barrett says the jail population usually decreased in the wintertime, but not this year when an abnormally high number of inmates is putting further stress on the facility. The sheriff says they are running out of space.

“We continue to take all precautions within our power to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Dane County Jail,” Barrett said in a statement Monday. “We have limited room to separate individuals and lack a medical area to isolate those who test positive, forcing us to utilize solitary confinement cells for COVID positive residents.”

In an interview with News 3 Now, Barrett said anywhere from 7-15 National Guard members helped with the testing effort, which was set to wrap up by the end of the day. Results for each PCR test are expected to be received by the end of the week.

“Once we get this baseline testing down, that would allow us to really get a good understanding on how we can overcome a lot of the challenges and obstacles that we are facing right now due to the configuration of our current facility,” he said. “Our old, outdated and inhumane facilities right now make it very difficult for us to properly isolate and quarantine those who are positive from those who aren’t, simply due to the fact that we don’t have enough isolation cells, nor do we have an updated facility that has negative pressure cells that will actually take the air from those positive cells and remove them from the facility.”

RELATED: ‘Scared for my son’: COVID cases spike in Dane Co. Jail

The National Guard had previously tested the jail’s population at the onset of the pandemic.

Officials said anyone in the jail who has tested positive in the last 90 days is exempt from testing. The jail is also taking the following precautions:

  • Newly booked inmates are housed separately from the general population for 14 days and tested if they are symptomatic
  • Inmates are only moved into the general population if they test negative after 14 days
  • Those who test positive must isolate for 10 days. If space is not available, positive inmates are housed with other known positive inmates for 10 days.
  • Anyone entering the jail has the option to be vaccinated if they so choose.

Officials also said they are working towards rapid testing every person who enters the jail, which would eliminate the need for a 14-day quarantine process for new inmates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.