Independent inspectors say the spread of coronavirus has been slowed significantly at the D.C. Jail, but chronic staff shortages have had a major impact on the jail’s ability to cope with the pandemic.
In a written report to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, filed earlier this week, court-appointed inspectors said the virus that causes COVID-19 has been a formidable challenge, but by mid-May, the rate of new infections at the DC Jail had dropped significantly from peak levels in late March and early April.
The inspectors said during the two-month period from March 14 to May 14, 315 COVID-19 tests were administered to inmates, and 185 came up positive.
The inspectors had previously reported to the judge that the inmate population at both the Central Detention Facility and the Central Treatment Facility had been reduced to about 1300. The reduction came from a push to mitigate the virus’ spread.
The inspections are part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the D.C. Department of Corrections due to concerns for inmate safety in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
While the virus is now spreading more slowly, the report raised concerns about access to health care for inmates who are not under quarantine.
Inmates at the jail who test positive are isolated and provided treatment. Inmates possibly exposed to the virus are placed in quarantine units and have daily temperature checks.
But the inspectors said medical care is limited for inmates who are not in quarantine. The report said the limits are caused by a lack of sufficient health care providers and inmates confined to their cells for extended periods of time.
The Department of Corrections said it has launched an enhanced sick call process.
The inspectors also said that the jail’s ability to confront the coronavirus has been hampered by staff shortages. The report estimates that up to 24% of the corrections staff has been out the past several weeks. However, the Department of Corrections told the judge that numerous staff returned to duty in recent days.
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