Two more staffers test positive for Covid-19 at Dartmouth jail

Apr 8, 2020

The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office announced on April 8 that two officers at the Bristol County House of Correction — a correctional officer and a K9 officer — have tested positive for Covid-19.

The news comes after a federal judge last week ordered the release of three Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees at the facility on top of six already released voluntarily by the federal agency due to concerns about coronavirus safety and crowding. More releases are expected to take place in the coming week.

A nurse who works at the Faunce Corner Road facility also tested positive for Covid-19 on April 1 after leaving the office on March 25 with a low-grade fever. According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office, she has recovered, and is cleared to return to work this week.

"Both are feeling well," Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said of the two officers who recently tested positive. "They have some minor symptoms but both said, overall, that they're feeling okay. That's very encouraging."

The Sheriff’s Office stated that the correctional officer's last shift was March 31. He didn't feel well in the days following, informed the office of the positive Covid-19 test result this week, and will be out of work until tests are negative and he is cleared by a doctor.

He works in a specialized housing unit inside the men's facility, which according to the Sheriff’s Office was empty on his last day and had one inmate in the days prior. The inmate has shown no symptoms of coronavirus, the office noted.

According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office, the K9 officer didn't feel well in the days after his last shift on March 28, received a test and notified the office of the positive result this week. The statement noted that he has no inmate contact and “extremely limited” contact with staff and the community, as he works to secure the outside perimeter of the Dartmouth correctional complex.

His K9 partner is showing no symptoms, and although no dogs have as yet become sick from the virus in the United States, the officer is taking extra precautions and limiting contact with his four-legged partner.

The Sheriff’s Office and Hodgson are the subject of a federal lawsuit requesting the release of ICE detainees due to concerns about living conditions in which bunk beds are located three feet apart. Social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus require people to stay at least six feet apart.

ICE detainees last week instituted a work stoppage in protest over the allegedly “unsafe” conditions. 

The office stated that it has given all employees masks to wear within the facility, and that it will give inmates and detainees masks by the end of the week.

This policy follows others taken by the facility including disinfecting the facility every day, screening all staff and new arrivals, and stopping all in-person visitation other than attorneys and clergy. 

“I couldn't be more proud of our staff,” noted Hodgson in the press release. “The inmates, as well, have been very focused on hygiene and doing their part to flatten the curve. We're all in this together.”