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Bergen County Jail Corrections Officer Tests Positive For Coronavirus, 7 Others Self-Quarantine

Bergen County Jail
Bergen County Jail Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT file photo

A corrections officer at the Bergen County Jail tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, leading seven co-workers to self-quarantine as well, Sheriff Anthony Cureton said Thursday.

Fifteen inmates at the jail were placed on quarantine, as well, the sheriff said.

"The test was declared presumptive positive on Wednesday by the New Jersey State Department of Health and has been sent to the Center for Disease Control for confirmation," Cureton said.

"Upon medical evaluation, the officer was asked to self-quarantine for 14 days," the sheriff said. "Seven additional corrections officers in close contact have also been asked to self-quarantine out of precaution. 

"Medical staff at the Bergen County Jail are closely monitoring inmates who may have been in contact with them," he added.

“It has become increasingly clear that those who are dedicated to serving in public capacities during this health crisis including law enforcement and healthcare professionals are at greater risk of exposure," Cureton said. "My administration is doing everything in our power to mitigate the spread of this virus with several precautions aimed at protecting our officers and those in our care at the Bergen County Jail.

"The fact of the matter is, inmates and detainees are less likely to contract COVID-19 than the general public since the jail is a self-contained environment. However, staff at the jail is taking all necessary steps to mitigate exposure from this single incident."

Jail staff has determined that no ICE detainees were exposed. nor have any displayed symptoms of COVID-19, the sheriff said.

Cureton said he's following CDC and Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 guidelines for law enforcement at the jail on River Street in Hackensack. Administration officials are also working in close cooperation with the Bergen County Department of Health Services and the New Jersey State Department of Health, he said.

To prevent the spread of the virus, Cureton over the past two weeks has had administrators:

  • Offering disinfectant spray, a bleach-based solution to sanitize floors and surface space, hand sanitizer, and soap in every housing unit at the jail. "The administration is encouraging both staff and the jail general population to use these tools often and liberally," the sheriff said;
  • Implementing a rotational out-of-cell schedule to practice social distancing for the jail general population. This is done on a two-hour rotation basis where half the unit is in-cell and half is out, he said;
  • Dramatically increasing sanitation frequency in housing units at the jail and within the sheriff's administrative offices;
  • Modifying the intake process for all incoming detainees and inmates. Detainees and inmates are screened to determine who has been to a country affected the virus or if they may have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus in the last 30 days;
  • Putting protocols in place for jail medical staff to continually monitor inmates by increasing screenings;
  • Screening all employees, vendors, detainees, and inmates who must enter the jail;
  • Making accommodations to allow attorney-client visits through partitioned visitation booths;
  • Postponing all tours of the Bergen County Jail until further notice.

The Bergen County Jail has a fully operational 24/7 medical unit within the facility with a full-time doctor and nursing staff. 

"It is among the cleanest and most advanced facilities in the state with exceptional medical care," Cureton said.

The jail "is in full compliance with the standards set forth by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, is a triple accredited facility, and has undergone two successful inspections from Nakamoto and the US Marshals Service in the past calendar," he added. 

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