Tuesday, October 19, 2021
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OPSO Covid-19

OPSO Inmate Cases

OPSO COVID-19 Overview:

As announced in previous reports, three members of our OPSO staff, Lt. Garry P. Duplessis, Deputy Eric Frazier and Deputy Vanessa Mackey, have passed away from contracting COVID-19. They will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by all of us here at OPSO.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office has a plan in place for illnesses such as pandemic flu, which has been modified to better fit the recommended COVID-19 response procedures. We are in regular communication with the New Orleans Department of Health, the Louisiana Office of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the public, our staff and our inmates and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Following is a summary of the prevention and treatment measures that are in force at all OPSO facilities:

  • On March 17, 2020, OPSO suspended all inmate transportation to the courts.
  • Our medical department, Wellpath, has developed a coronavirus screening process for all new arrestees, current inmates and anyone who enters our facilities. This screening includes temperature screenings with the latest technology and several targeted questions surrounding their activities and interactions over the past 14 days.
  • In addition to daily temperature screening, all inmates with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 undergo pulse oximeter checks twice daily.
  • At this time, all non-essential visits to OPSO facilities are suspended.
  • Attorney-client visits and inmates' first appearances have shifted to video conferencing only.
  • In keeping with normal routine, we are dispensing soap and other toiletries to inmates free of charge and staff is directing inmates to wash their hands frequently. The OPSO is also working to ensure that it is equipped with enough supplies to combat COVID-19 on a prolonged basis.
  • Security personnel limit the number of inmates that are allowed out at any one time to increase social distancing.
  • Accommodations have also been made to quarantine any affected individuals in segregated cells. This protocol includes inmates that are being treated for non-COVID-19 health issues and according to the direction of the OPSO medical staff.
  • OPSO staff is vigorously cleaning the facilities and hand sanitation stations have also been installed throughout the Orleans Justice Center.

All OPSO employees and contractors have been notified of this plan, advised on ways to avoid exposure to the virus, encouraged to practice social distancing and urged to notify their supervisors and stay home if they are feeling ill. Specifically, the OPSO has implemented the following procedures for OPSO staff:

  • All OPSO employees are to remain in or on their assigned areas or posts. OPSO staff are prohibited from visiting areas other than their designated posts.
  • At the OPSO entry screening point and before they enter the Orleans Justice Center, OPSO employees and contract personnel must self-report any contact they have had with an individual who has a presumptive positive or positive test for COVID-19.
  • All OPSO staff who call off-duty for potential COVID-19 symptoms for themselves or a family member are required to submit a medical clearance prior to reporting to their assigned post.

As an educational tool for inmates and staff, OPSO has produced a series of videos that is airing on televisions across the facilities. The videos focus on the severity of the outbreak and address how to identify signs and symptoms, ways to prevent the spread and employee protocol surrounding COVID-19.

We have established protocol to test individuals for the virus and report cases to the CDC and Department of Health immediately. We also have detailed instructions and procedures for treating that individual or, if necessary, properly transporting that person to a designated medical facility."


NEW ORLEANS - Updated 06-18-2020

For a chart on the progression of inmate cases since May, click here.

As of Friday, June 12, we are pleased to report there are no known positive cases of COVID-19 among the inmate population currently in the custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office. This was achieved through an aggressive screening and testing process in partnership with Tulane University, a strict protocol to segregate positive and potentially positive cases from other inmates, efforts to educate inmates and staff on prevention methods and a detailed treatment plan.

"Our staff, medical provider and partners have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to navigate this very challenging and unpredictable situation," said Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who also expressed his deep regret that three employees passed away due to the coronavirus. "Our thoughts are with the families of our fallen coworkers and everyone that has been impacted in some way throughout this time," he said.

Despite the loss, Sheriff Gusman said the Sheriff's Office will remain vigilant against the virus. "Of course, we will continue to do our testing as we get new inmates in our custody every day. We will also continue with the testing of our staff and contractors who leave and return to work every day. We still have a long road, but I am confident in our ability to overcome what lies ahead."

Among OPSO staffers, including medical personnel, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has decreased drastically. Currently, 13 OPSO employees have tested positive and are quarantined in their homes. At the height of the pandemic, 94 inmates and 74 staff members were positive for the virus. To date, more than 1,174 inmates and 877 employees have been tested.

The decision to test all employees, contractors and inmates has set the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office apart from agencies across the country, said Dr. Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University, which was instrumental in helping the Sheriff's Office ramp up its testing capabilities. "What the Sheriff's Office is doing is instructive for correctional facilities as well as hospitals and long-term care facilities. The experience at OPSO in this first phase of COVID-19 testing will provide guidance for others in our community and communities across the country," Dr. Garry said.

"When COVID-19 first emerged, we recognized that correction centers like ours were extremely vulnerable which is why we acted as quickly as possible to protect our inmates, staff and the New Orleans community," said Independent Compliance Director for OPSO Darnley R. Hodge, Sr.

OPSO's leadership and medical team are working to evaluate the organization's testing process thus far and making plans to conduct phase two testing. In keeping with phase one, all individuals who enter the building will continue to be screened and denied access at the discretion of medical personnel based on screening results. In an effort to remain transparent, OPSO will continue to keep the public informed on the status of COVID-19 within its facilities.

To view OPSO’s previous COVID-19 updates and actions toward prevention, click here.


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