Pennington County Jail overcomes COVID-19 surge using quarantine units

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Prisons in the state of South Dakota have seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The cases total has reported to have nearly doubled since last weekend, and while the severity of the disease may not have been to that extent in the Pennington County Jail, it certainly wasn’t immune.

As of Wednesday, the jail has reported a total of 38 positive COVID-19 cases out of its about 150 staff members, while 56 of the roughly 500 inmates have tested positive.

At one time, the jail had nearly 30 active cases among inmates earlier in October. That’s when the jail decided to take action.

Along with enhanced cleaning measures and following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the jail created five quarantine units to isolate the inmates who tested positive or were identified as a close contact.

The jail is now down to three quarantine units (of a total 34 housing units) with three people in those units who have tested positive among those who were in close contact.

“When we had an initial outbreak of it a few weeks ago, we used quarantine units to isolate the inmates who had it and anyone who was in close contact so that we could get that stopped before it made it through the facility,” said Commander Rob Yantis of the Pennington County Jail.

Every new inmate that comes into the facility must spend eight to 14 days in quarantine.

In those units, inmates who test positive must also spend 23.5 hours in lockdown, with groups or cohorts being allotted 30 minutes to shower or use a phone to call family, and even though his staff and inmates have been forced to be fluid during the pandemic, according to Yantis, they’ve responded.

“I’m very proud of our people, very proud of even the inmates in the way that they’ve responded to us as we’ve worked through this,” Yantis said.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News