01STOCK_CORONAVIRUS01

JANESVILLE

Rock County Jail officials said Monday they started offering COVID-19 tests to staff members who want them after an outbreak infected several dozen inmates.

Jail Capt. Kim Litsheim told The Gazette on Monday that the jail’s priority last week was to get all inmates tested.

“I didn’t want to take the chance of not getting through all of my jail population,” she said.

As of late Friday, the jail had accounted for 86 positive test results among 234 inmates who took tests. Those are the latest numbers that jail staff shared Monday morning.

Five tests came back inconclusive, and Litsheim said she expected results on those Tuesday.

She said the next round of testing that started Monday is for those who tested negative last week but still were within a five-day incubation period based on potential exposure.

More testing will occur on a rolling basis from when a given inmate’s five-day window starts and ends, as well as if new positive cases emerge.

“This will be on the long haul,” she said.

Those who tested positive have been moved into an isolation unit, she said.

Cmdr. Erik Chellevold said the jail has had a system in place to identify symptomatic staff members and to get them tests. But the current outbreak prompted officials to provide tests in hopes of catching asymptomatic staff members, as well.

Chellevold said the jail currently has enough medical staff to handle the outbreak and can request additional resources if needed.

He said deputies and officials from other areas of the sheriff’s office have been brought in to keep up with the additional work, in part because they stopped having inmates handle some jobs.

He also said it was too soon to have staffers' test results connected to the current outbreak.

Other staff members have tested positive during other periods of the pandemic—dating back to March—but jail officials have attributed those infections to community spread outside the jail.

The Gazette reported Thursday that since March 19, the sheriff’s office has seen 36 employees with positive COVID-19 cases.

Litsheim said at noon Monday that about 25 staff members had taken COVID-19 tests, and she expected more to come from second- and third-shift workers.

This story might be updated if more information becomes available.

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