How Wake County Detention Center is preparing for more potential coronavirus cases

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County Detention Center medical facility looks like a nurses' station and rooms at your local hospital.

In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in Wake County, the virus could easily end up inside the Detention Center maybe even by design.

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Last week, Wake's senior resident Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway told ABC11 that as the court system gears up for the coronavirus, one thing being considered is that anyone who refuses an order to quarantine or isolate will have to be jailed.

But he's confident in the Detention Center's ability to handle at least some COVID-19 patients.

"They have very good health facilities and health experts there. We're working closely with county officials to isolate, to learn how to isolate people while they're incarcerated. And so certainly we can do that," he said.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office, which runs the Detention Center, has been dealing with communicable diseases long before COVID-19 showed up.

"We've had to isolate certain residents from our main population so that that particular resident does not contaminate the rest of the population," said Wake County Sheriff's spokesman Eric Curry.

Tuberculosis is a prime example, he said.

He also said the department is consulting every day with county partners including health officials

Having a modern jail that's just 8 years old and still state-of-the-art will help.

"We have four zero pressure rooms within this facility that we've had to use from time to time because of serious illness," Curry said adding, "We've had to isolate certain residents from our main population so that that particular resident does not contaminate the rest of the population."

Zero pressure rooms have their own ventilation system so none of the air inside mixes with air breathed by the rest of the people in the detention center.

And when those rooms and other hospital-style rooms are empty they are constantly disinfected.

Two inmates on a cleaning crew were scrubbing a hospital-style room from top to bottom Monday afternoon.

Curry said officials want to make sure that inmates and staff aren't locked behind jail doors in a breeding ground for communicable disease and they are ready if and when the coronavirus arrives here.

"We have the medical personnel as well as policy in place to react at a moment's notice to ensure the safety of not only the residents but our detention officers."
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