State health department conducts mass COVID-19 testing at DeSoto County Detention Center

State health department conducts mass COVID-19 testing at DeSoto County Detention Center

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - On Friday, more than 500 people inside the DeSoto County Detention Center were tested for COVID-19.

The Mississippi Department of Health conducted the testing about a week after the facility saw its first group of positive cases since the start of the pandemic.

Since Saturday, 11 people inside the DeSoto County Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19. Just how much that virus spread inside the facility will soon be determined.

“We can’t force the testing on the inmates because they’re all adults, but a vast majority are testing,” Desoto County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Justin Smith said.

The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office said about 100 inmates opted out of test. Seventeen inmates within the same pod were tested last weekend after they started feeling sick.

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Since then, Director of Detention Services Chad Wicker said he’s had several family members of inmates call him.

“Just to let you know we’re going to take care of your loved ones,” Wicker said. “We’re going to give them the best care they can get.”

“They are human just like you and I are,” one inmate’s sister Mary Russell said. “They need the proper care that we are getting out here.”

Russell said her brother Curtis Harris has been in the detention center for 11 months, and told her this week he’s lost his sense of taste and smell -- symptoms of COVID-19.

“But being 64 years old, we don’t know if he has an underlying condition,” Russell said.

Russell said her brother told her that medical staff gave him Tylenol for his symptoms and told him to drink plenty of fluids. She’s worried that isn’t enough.

The sheriff’s office said 24/7 medical staff check on sick inmates several times a day.

“Inmates are getting constant medical care throughout the day, throughout the night, anytime they have a medical need,” Smith said.

The sheriff’s office said it’s expecting to implement numerous quarantines based on the results but there will be no inmate releases. The state’s results are expected back in two to four days.

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