Hennepin County Jail has had its first case of the coronavirus

The inmate was released and told to self-isolate.
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Hennepin County Jail has had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office confirmed that an inmate brought into the jail in downtown Minneapolis this past Friday exhibited signs that warranted a COVID-19 test.

On Sunday, the test results showed he had tested positive. The inmate has since been released from custody, is aware he has the virus and said he would self-isolate at home.

"We are optimistic that the steps that we have employed to prevent the spread will have been successful," the sheriff's office said in a Monday statement.

"We continue to monitor those who may have been in contact with this inmate to ensure that the risk of contagious exposure is mitigated."

The sheriff's office said that it has spent weeks preparing for the "inevitability" of a coronavirus infection at its facility, and notes it has been working with healthcare experts to implement a number of changes to identify and isolate cases.

This includes working with other law enforcement agencies to reduce the number of people being brought to jail, by finding alternatives to custodial arrests, and working with the courts to release non-violent inmates who pose minimal risk to the community on bail pending their court hearings.

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It now screens all inmates entering the facility and isolating those with potential exposure from inmates who have been asymptomatic, and when possible is using single cell assignments to keep inmates apart.

As of last week there has only been one significant outbreak at a jail or prison in Minnesota, with at least eight cases reported in inmates and staff at MCF-Moose Lake.

Inmates and correctional officers are among those who are able to access COVID-19 testing as they work in congregate living settings, which is one of the areas the Minnesota Department of Health is prioritizing for testing.

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