McCracken County Jailer David Knight has been dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 at the McCracken County Regional Jail this week.
After receiving multiple calls from concerned community members with relatives in the jail regarding a rash of cases, The Sun reached out to the jail official and he confirmed that 15 inmates had been diagnosed as of Tuesday. No further cases had been diagnosed by late Wednesday.
Knight said he had “no idea” how it got into the jail, but that it was being dealt with and contained as safely as possible.
“The cases are all females, they all came out of the same cell (block),” the jailer said. “I really can’t tell you how it got in there. They’re isolated and anybody they’d have been exposed to is isolated.”
All 15 are in stable condition, Knight added, and the jail’s doctors are continuing to monitor them.
This is the second outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic’s onset last spring. In total, 70 inmates — out of the more than 6,000 booked into the facility — in that time have been positively diagnosed.
“Seventy sounds like a lot but considering the environment we’re in where everybody lives together it’s not really that much,” Knight said. “The first one was around Christmas and we had 47 total, primarily in the back where the males are. Then we’ve gone months without any and we’ve had this recent spike in the last three days.”
Knight said he thinks he and his employees have served admirably under difficult circumstances.
“I’m very pleased considering the pandemic we’re in and the environment they’re in. They all live very close together and for us to have kept it out as long as we have I’m very pleased with everything my employees have done,” he said. “We work very diligently and hard to maintain a sanitary environment and it seems like the precautions have worked.”
All of the new intakes to the jail are isolated from the general population for 14 days and anyone entering the jail is screened by temperature and questionnaire. Each inmate is provided two masks and all employees wear masks as well. That’s in addition to what Knight describes as “constant” cleaning of the facility.
Even visitation has been altered by the pandemic. Currently all visitations still take place online.
Purchase District Health Department Director Kent Koster acknowledged that Knight has been in a difficult position.
“Their jail is in pods and I know that they would quarantine those that were COVID positive together and anyone else that had been exposed and not tested positive would quarantine together,” Koster said. “There was quite a bit of thinking that went into all of that as far as how to separate them. It’s just real difficult with the way the facility’s laid out to do that.”
Knight was working with Koster prior to this outbreak to set up a clinic for inmates in the jail that would like to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. So far “several hundred” inmates have expressed interest. The jailer plans to submit the list of interested inmates to the health department Monday.
“We have the vaccine we’re just waiting to get a list of which individuals want it,” Koster added. “We’d like to go ahead and do that next week.”