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First Oakland County Jail inmate tests positive for coronavirus

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Pontiac — The Oakland County Jail has had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus in an inmate, Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

Last week, Bouchard said "a ton" of deputies were out on quarantine after possible exposure to the virus. That number has since grown, but Bouchard declined to share specifics, as that would reveal staffing levels.

Quarantined employees stay home until the 14-day waiting period is over.

Some inmates have been released, with judicial approval, to get them out of the path of a virus that thrives on crowds packed into small areas. When March began, the jail had 1,282 inmates. As of Monday it had 957, said Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper. That's 325 fewer inmates in less than a month's time.

More:Jail populations plunge in Metro Detroit as coronavirus spreads

But not all inmates are eligible for jail alternatives, such as early release or tethering. For those left in the the jail, there will be additional quarantines within the facility, and less movement of the population around the facility.

The jail will also see "a whole new level of disinfecting," Bouchard said.

Jails and prisons periodically implement quarantines during flu season. For instance, before the coronavirus forced the Michigan Department of Corrections to halt in-person visits altogether, 10 of its 29 facilities were on flu quarantine.

More:MDOC: 10 of 29 Michigan prison facilities on 'flu quarantine'

Deputies are trying to determine how the inmate may have gotten the virus and who the inmate might have had contact with. 

"You want to keep it isolated," Bouchard said, noting that the level of contagion for the coronavirus makes it worse than the flu. 

As of last week, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office reported zero cases of coronavirus, among staff and inmates.

But in Wayne County, a hot spot for the virus, law enforcement has been particularly hard-hit. Detroit Police Department lost a dispatcher and the head of its homicide unit last week, while the Wayne County Sheriff's Office lost a jail commander, Donafay Collins.

Oakland County has had 59 coronavirus deaths and 1,391 positive cases as of Monday afternoon.

More:Oakland County COVID-19 deaths double overnight

"Just because a community has more or fewer cases is not an indication of the relative safety in those communities," Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said Monday. "COVID-19 is in every community in Oakland County and it is everywhere."

jdickson@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @downi75