Peninsula inmate cases seen only in Clallam County jail

Contact limited to phone device

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

Four Clallam County jail inmates recovering from COVID-19 while under quarantine may have been infected after a male lawyer whose children had the virus visited the facility to consult with his client, Sheriff Bill Benedict said last week.

No one incarcerated at the Forks or Jefferson County jails, at Clallam Bay Corrections Center in Clallam County or Olympic Corrections Center in Jefferson County had contracted the virus as of Thursday, North Olympic Peninsula and state health and law enforcement officials said last week.

Clallam Bay Corrections Center, a maximum security facility, had six confirmed staff cases, and the minimum security Olympic Corrections Center had three staff cases, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan Biller said in an email.

The infections at the Port Angeles courthouse facility led to ongoing restrictions on contact between attorneys and their clients, who must for the time being discuss cases by secure cellphones rather than up-close contact, Chief Corrections Deputy Wendy Peterson said.

One inmate is 21, two are 40 and one is 46, Peterson said. All are men.

“We know the lawyer’s kids had it,” Benedict said.

“He appeared to be asymptomatic. After the inmate became ill, we suspected that. He was contacted, and he tested negative.”

One inmate, who started showing flu-like symptoms on Dec. 11, spread it to the other three men, Peterson said.

All four lived in the same cell. They have been quarantined since Dec. 11.

“All of them have been here a long time,” Peterson said.

The infected inmates are largely isolated two to a cell with access to a common area, Peterson said, with their cellphone-like Chirp devices, which are monitored, as their only contact with the outside world.

They can leave their cells for at least one to two hours a day.

“They would just as soon hang out in their bed,” Peterson said.

“They are not actively asking to get out and run around and be active. They are not feeling well.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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