Outbreak at Dartmouth jail with 15 new cases this week

May 12, 2020

Eight inmates, six staff members, and one federal immigrations detainee at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week, according to a May 12 press release. There have now been 28 confirmed cases of coronavirus at the facility.

Across the country, prisons and jails are emerging as sites for Covid-19 outbreaks. In the few places where authorities have introduced widespread testing, many have huge numbers of prisoners testing positive — with up to 95 percent showing no symptoms.

The Bristol County outbreak comes one week after the first inmate tested positive for the virus and a federal judge ordered the office to test immigrations detainees and staff members — an order that the sheriff’s office is currently filing to appeal, according to spokesman Jonathan Darling.

Those who run the Bristol County House of Correction have recently seen intense scrutiny from government officials following a violent disturbance at the jail’s immigrations facility on May 1 in which three detainees were hospitalized.

According to the release, the inmates are currently isolated in medical or single cells and are being monitored continuously by health care professionals. The Sheriff’s Office noted that the jail’s medical team is also monitoring inmates in their former housing unit.

The six staff members include three corrections officers, a communications dispatcher, a nurse and a classification counselor.

Darling also said that the office currently tests only those who show symptoms. 

Nor will there be any change to current procedures, he added.

“Maybe, we’ll reevaluate things,” he said. “We’re just going to keep following those CDC guidelines until things change.”

Other policies that the facility has implemented since the start of the pandemic include disinfecting every day, screening all staff and new arrivals, and stopping all in-person visitation.

County inmates held a hunger strike on May 7 and May 12 due in large part to the lack of visitation, which they say should be replaced with two hours of free phone calls.

Currently, 11 Bristol County Sheriff's Office staff members remain away from the facility recovering. The release noted that all have reported feeling well and are expected back soon.

Seven have recovered from the virus and have since returned to duty.