Barren County Jail COVID-19 Cases Decreasing After Quick Response and Weekly Testing

Oct 2, 2020

Barren County Detention Center
Credit Barren County Detention Center

Group facilities, such as county jails, provide some of the biggest challenges to preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

After more than 60 inmates at the Barren County Detention Center tested positive for the virus two weeks ago, extensive testing has been initiated, in addition to frequent cleaning and other precautionary measures. 

WKU Public Radio Reporter Rhonda Miller spoke with Barren County Jailer Aaron Bennett about working with the county Judge Executive’s office, emergency management, and the local health department to quickly tackle the virus. 


Bennett:

We've been working with the health department, taking their guidance and following CDC and what we've been doing is initially we tested 216 and 63 tested positive, initially. And speaking with the health department and following all CDC, they're saying after two weeks of them being tested that the virus should run its course and they should be fine. And they recommended us continue to test the ones that were negative, you know, to make sure they're not turning positive. So last week we tested the negatives and we tested about 114 of them and 29 of them are positive. So initially we had about 30 percent. So last week it knocked it down to about 20 percent positive. And then this week we tested 111 and only nine of them tested positive. So that brings it down to about 8 percent. The first group that we tested initially their two weeks will be up this Friday. So the virus should have ran its course of they should be healthy again. And then next week those 29 should be good. And then the following week the nine. So our numbers are definitely coming down. 

Miller:

And are there employees that tested positive at this point? 

Bennett:

Yes, ma'am. We've had about nine employees, nine or 10 employees, that tested positive. That's been off and on over the last two weeks. To summarize it, you know, we're going to continue testing the ones that are negative to make sure they're not turning positive. And the ones that did positive, you know, we're treating them and just keeping an eye on them, making sure their symptoms don't get worse. And the worst symptoms that we had was just flu-like symptoms. I’m very thankful that we didn't have any type of respiratory issues or anything like that. You know, the numbers are coming down. The virus is running its course and hopefully here in another week or two we’ll be coronavirus free.

Miller:
A lot of the concern has been especially employees or people who let's say they're arrested for a DUI or something, they're in there for a couple days and going in and out of the community. At this point are you calling it a mandatory test?

Bennett:
It's not mandatory. If they don't take the test we just kind of treat as a positive and, you know, we keep them isolated. They don't have to take the test and all the inmates know that. And we have had a couple of refusals. If it’s somebody for a DUI, we keep them isolated. They're usually out, you know, within, you know, eight to 12 hours. So we keep them isolated. They don't go the general population or anything like that.

Miller:
Who pays for these tests? Are they at the jail? Is there a mobile site? Or how are the tests done?

Bennett:
What the county has done, the county has purchased a testing machine for the jail that we have here. And then we purchased the tests. So all the all the equipment and the test is right here at the jail and our health providers here at the jail, Southern Health Partners are actually the ones that administer the test.

Miller:
I guess the only other thing Jailer Bennett would be, what would be your overall sort of perspective on this, this whole COVID issue in the jails?

Bennett:
You know, even with all the cleaning, once it gets in, you know, it kind of spreads like wildfire, unfortunately, and you really got to do everything that you can to contain it. And you know, and that's why we continue to, you know, test and monitor and keep our eyes on everybody, you know, for any type of symptoms. But the ones that are actually sick is maybe a handful of maybe 10 and the rest of them there hasn't been any symptoms. But that doesn't mean somebody can’t get symptoms and get, you know, very sick. So you know, we want to jump out in front of it. And that's why we've been doing testing, you know, once a week right now until we get our numbers down, which our numbers are going down extremely fast, which is a good thing.

Miller:
Thank you so much for speaking with me. I really appreciate it.

Bennett:
No problem, ma’am.

Miller:
Thank you Jailer Bennett.