State Corrections Officials Help Comanche County Battle Jail COVID Outbreak

May 20, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State corrections officials are helping a southern Oklahoma county battle an outbreak of COVID-19 in the county’s jail, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Tuesday.

In a statement, department officials said 12 of their security experts have been dispatched to the Comanche County Detention Center in Lawton to help the county grapple with its outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

More than 100 inmates and 16 staff members at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the statement, and the Comanche County Facilities Authority that manages the jail was unprepared for the outbreak, authority Chairman Johnny Owens said.

“We were not equipped to deal with this pandemic. We reached out to the state for help and have received an incredible response from people who jumped right in, working alongside jail administrators and employees to turn this around,” Owens is quoted in the statement as saying.

The facilities authority will meet Wednesday to discuss and possibly act on an agreement with state corrections officials to transfer to the state prison system immediately the county’s inmates who test negative for COVID-19.

The number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma is nearing 5,500 and there are now nearly 300 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Tuesday.

There are 5,489 confirmed cases of the virus and 294 deaths, an increase from 5,398 cases and 288 deaths reported on Monday. The actual number of those infected is thought to be much higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can have the disease without showing symptoms.

The department said 4.4% of those tested since Saturday for the virus tested positive.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday it will provide nearly $88 million to Oklahoma to support testing for COVID-19 as part of a $10.25 billion nationwide funding package. 

The money is to be used to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, conduct surveillance, trace contacts, and related activities.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.