Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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NEW ORLEANS - Updated 04-13-2020

Following is a joint statement from Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Compliance Director Darnley R. Hodge regarding ongoing health monitoring of inmates and OPSO staff and contractors, as well as established precautions at the Orleans Justice Center (OJC) related COVID-19 prevention and treatment:


"To date, 41 OPSO employees have tested positive for COVID-19, 17 tested negative, six are awaiting pending results and 31 employees have self-quarantined. This accounts for a total of 95 employees that have been affected by COVID-I9 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the individuals that have been impacted, 27 have returned to work. This includes four individuals who had the virus and were medically cleared by their doctors. This should be viewed as a positive, as we continue to manage through this pandemic.

Additionally, since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 29 employees of OPSO's contracted medical provider, Wellpath, have been affected by COVID-19. This includes eleven that tested positive, ten that have tested negative, two who are awaiting pending results and six that have self-quarantined. Of those affected, 16 Wellpath employees have returned to work. This includes four individuals who had the virus and were medically cleared by their doctors.

Out of our current active inmate count, there are 16 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19, 19 that have tested negative and two with pending results. We have acquired enough collection kits and are in the process of systematically testing all inmates in housing unit four today. Testing of other units will occur in coming days along with staff testing in an effort to contain the virus and eliminate it from within our facilities.

As mentioned in previous updates, we have been medically segregating inmates as deemed necessary to contain the virus on one housing unit and have been in constant communication with prison healthcare expert Dr. Robert Greifinger on the best course of action.

Due to the design of the Orleans Justice Center Facility, segregation is challenging. Since the facility has approximately 1,440 beds and only 723 inmates, this gives the impression that there is a lot of flexibility in moving inmates around however, this is not the case. The facility consists of 24 pods of 60 beds each. There are no smaller pods for classification of inmates who should be kept separate. For example, we have a 60-bed pod encumbered with 11 inmates, another 60-bed pod with 9 inmates, another 60-bed pod with 6 inmates, and another 60-bed pod with 6 inmates (females). That is a total of 240 beds encumbered with only 32 inmates. As stated earlier, the design of the facility does not efficiently accommodate the needs of classification especially in times like this. This problem would be drastically remedied with the construction of the proposed Special Needs Facility.

Our current inmate population in OJC is 723. There are 11 inmates currently in the Intake and Processing Center (IPC), 36 at the Temporary Detention Center and 20 at Hunt Correctional Center."


"The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office has a plan in place for illnesses such as pandemic flu, which has been modified to better fit the recommended COVID-19 response procedures. We are in regular communication with the New Orleans Department of Health, the Louisiana Office of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the public, our staff and our inmates and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Following is a summary of the prevention and treatment measures that are in force at all OPSO facilities:

  • On March 17, 2020, OPSO suspended all inmate transportation to the courts.
  • Our medical department, Wellpath, has developed a coronavirus screening process for all new arrestees, current inmates and anyone who enters our facilities. This screening includes temperature screenings with the latest technology and several targeted questions surrounding their activities and interactions over the past 14 days.
  • In addition to daily temperature screening, all inmates and OPSO staff undergo pulse oximeter checks daily.
  • At this time, all non-essential visits to OPSO facilities are suspended.
  • Attorney-client visits and inmates' first appearances have shifted to video conferencing only.
  • In keeping with normal routine, we are dispensing soap and other toiletries to inmates free of charge and staff is directing inmates to wash their hands frequently. The OPSO is also working to ensure that it is equipped with enough supplies to combat COVID-19 on a prolonged basis.
  • Accommodations have also been made to quarantine any affected individuals in segregated cells. This protocol includes inmates that are being treated for non-COVID-19 health issues and according to the direction of the OPSO medical staff.
  • OPSO staff is vigorously cleaning the facilities and hand sanitation stations have also been installed throughout the Orleans Justice Center.

All OPSO employees and contractors have been notified of this plan, advised on ways to avoid exposure to the virus, encouraged to practice social distancing and urged to notify their supervisors and stay home if they are feeling ill. Specifically, the OPSO has implemented the following procedures for OPSO staff:

  • All OPSO employees are to remain in or on their assigned areas or posts. OPSO staff are prohibited from visiting areas other than their designated posts.
  • At the OPSO entry screening point and before they enter the Orleans Justice Center, OPSO employees and contract personnel must self-report any contact they have had with an individual who has a presumptive positive or positive test for COVID-19.
  • All OPSO staff who call off-duty for potential COVID-19 symptoms for themselves or a family member are required to submit a medical clearance prior to reporting to their assigned post.

As an educational tool for inmates and staff, OPSO has produced a series of videos that is airing on televisions across the facilities. The videos focus on the severity of the outbreak and address how to identify signs and symptoms, ways to prevent the spread and employee protocol surrounding COVID-19.

We have established protocol to test individuals for the virus and report cases to the CDC and Department of Health immediately. We also have detailed instructions and procedures for treating that individual or, if necessary, properly transporting that person to a designated medical facility."

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