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10 Whatcom Jail deputies on leave after testing positive for COVID-19

Whatcom County Courthouse (July 29, 2016). Whatcom News file photo
Whatcom County Courthouse (July 29, 2016). Whatcom News file photo

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — The Bellingham Herald published a story yesterday about how 10 deputies and an inmate at the Whatcom County Jail recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Deb Slater confirmed the deputies all tested positive between August 14th and August 18th and have been placed on medical leave.

The inmate, who is now receiving appropriate medical treatment while in medical isolation, and the deputies “have had only very mild symptoms,” Slater told Whatcom News.

It is believed the inmate, who refused to be tested while being booked into the jail, was carrying the virus at the time and infected the deputies involved during the booking process. The inmate later agreed to being tested and the test was positive.

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Jail staff undergo weekly nasal swab rapid testing which has been in place since late 2020. Given the recent spike of case positives, testing is now being done daily.

The downtown jail has a total of 46 deputies and sergeants who work the floor over 3 shifts each day. With 10 deputies on medical leave, there will likely be an impact service at the jail according to Slater. “We ask the public’s patience as we work to make the adjustments in workload to cover essential duties while compensating for the reduced staffing.”

The only previous spike in case positives occurred at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office minimum-security Work Center facility in late January. Between January 19th and January 27th, there had been 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the facility which houses 15 offenders. Slater said at that time, “Offenders who have tested positive for COVID-19 are showing mild symptoms, are isolated with the other positive COVID-19 offenders and are receiving medical care.”

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