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Jail Is Not Mass Testing Inmates, Despite Requests From Public Health

Joshua Chenault
The Montgomery County jail.
Credit Joshua Chenault / WYSO

The outbreak of COVID-19 among inmates at the Montgomery County Jail has grown since the first case was reported on June 10. 

The facility currently has 17 inmates who are positive for COVID-19, according to the jail. Five staff members are also in quarantine at home. 

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County has asked the jail to test everyone in the facility. But the jail is instead following the recommendations of its medical provider NaphCare. According to email records, Dr. Jeffrey Alvarez, Chief Medical Officer at NaphCare, only supported testing people with symptoms of the coronavirus, high risk individuals, and those needing medical clearance for certain programs.

“We are not a closed facility and therefore he [Dr. Alvarez] felt it [testing everyone in the facility] was a waste of resources and labor,” Theresa Russel, Director of Criminal Justice Outreach with the Sheriff's Office, said in an email to Public Health officials on June 18. Ellis Jacobs, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, received the email records through a public records request and shared them with WYSO.

In response to Russel’s email, Joyce Close, supervisor of the Bureau of Communicable Disease at Public Health, said in an email on June 18, “We all agree that the stance of the corporate medical director for NaphCare is not acceptable with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. We would like to see everyone at the Montgomery County Jail be tested for Covid.”

Major Jeremy Roy, the jail division commander, said the jail has reached out to the Ohio Department of Health, the Bureau of Adult Detention, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the surrounding county jails for recommendations on mass testing. 

“All of them say the same thing, that in a transient-type population like the jail, where we're booking in on average over the last three weeks 43 inmates in the back door, that doing mass testing does not help in this setting,” he said.

Jacobs said the transient population in the facility does not mean that mass testing should not be done.

“The reason they give is not a reason not to do testing. Public Health is doing mass testing at the Fuyao plant and at the Crocs plant,” he said. “Those people come and go. Coming and going does not determine whether you should do mass testing or not.”

He said the growing number of cases is evidence that the advice the jail is following is not working.

“Maybe it's time to start taking the advice of the local experts who truly have our community's interest at heart and do the testing that they’ve been demanding,” he said.

To date, 28 inmates and five jail staff have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. Public Information Supervisor Dan Suffoletto said the department is “in discussions with the jail to determine a further course of action.”

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