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Coronavirus: 5 inmate cases, 1 staff at Hennepin County Jail

The sheriff's office has reduced jail population by 45 percent since the start of March.

There have now been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus at Hennepin County Jail among inmates, and one staff member.

The figure was confirmed by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office on Thursday following a number of inquiries about the extent of the virus in Minnesota's largest county jail.

The sheriff's office said as well as the confirmed cases, it currently 3 tests pending, while there are currently 49 inmates sick in custody – albeit not necessarily with coronavirus symptoms.

All of the confirmed cases have come from infection outside of the jail, rather than spread inside, with the jail having reduced its capacity by 45 percent to limit any potential spreads, part of a statewide strategy to release low-risk, non-violent offenders on bail until their court date.

"The lower population of the jail allows us to better isolate inmates who test positive and whose status is unknown and to protect the population that has not been infected,” Sheriff Dave Hutchinson said.

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Suspects detained at the jail are all given masks to wear, and are also screened for fever and symptoms upon intake.

"We have put measures in place for universal screening of all people and testing of symptomatic people coming into our facility – the positive tests that we have received so far are all people who came into our facility from the community," said Dr. Rachel Silva, medical director of the jail.

"All of our positive cases, thus far, represent community spread, and not cases related to spread within the facility."

At the prison level, the Department of Corrections is dealing with two COVID-19 outbreaks, with 14 positive cases confirmed a MCF-Moose Lake, and 15 at nearby Willow River Boot Camp.

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