Meck County Jail lifts lockdown; more than 150 inmates infected with COVID-19

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The Mecklenburg County Jail lifted its lockdown on Monday after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, officials said.

Officials said the lockdown, which was put into place Thursday, would “cease all movement of staff and residents within the facility for the next 48 hours to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the facility.”

After testing and contact tracing, authorities said there are now 157 inmates with active cases of the virus. There are a total of 477 residents in Respiratory Isolation due to the possibility of exposure by those who tested positive.

“While one case of COVID-19 in our facility is one case too many – be it a resident or a member of staff – I remain impressed by and grateful for the dedication and commitment of our medical team and detention officers in the management of the current outbreak,” Sheriff Garry L. McFadden said. “We’re not out of the woods just yet, but we can see the light through the trees now. Hopefully this week will bring better news, and the lessons learned – our new rapid testing protocols in particular – will serve us well if and when we are faced with another outbreak down the road.”

According to an order by Judge Elizabeth Trosch, the Mecklenburg County Detention Center medical director made the recommendation to McFadden that the facility be placed on lockdown after a rise in COVID-19 cases.

The sheriff’s office said they began testing all staff and contractors working at the detention center at the beginning of last week. In the first 72 hours of testing, MCSO identified more than 20 staff members who were “unwittingly positive with the virus.”

“I remain grateful for and amazed by the commitment and dedication of the staff at the Detention Center, and of our incredible team of healthcare providers with Wellpath,” McFadden said. “These are challenging times for us all. Our residents and their families should know that we continue to do all that we can to care for and protect those individuals entrusted to us. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this horrible virus is that it can be spread so easily by individuals who have no idea that they themselves are sick.”

The lockdown came just one day after the jail reported 65 more virus cases within the inmate population, bringing the total number of “active-positive residents” to 107. Many of those are no longer contagious and are back in the general population.

According to officials, two of the 107 active-positive residents have required housing in the infirmary. The vast majority remain asymptomatic and those with any symptoms have mild ones.

All inmates will remain in isolation while contract tracing takes place. The detention center has also canceled all visitation.

“In order to facilitate contact tracing as efficiently as possible while minimizing additional exposures and potential spread of the virus, the Detention Center has eliminated all visitation and movement of residents for at least the next 48 hours, keeping all residents in Respiratory Isolation while contact tracing takes place,” read a statement from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

The lockdown had the following impact on court operations:

1. Defendants will not be appear for in-person hearings on Friday or Monday.

2. The District Attorney’s Office will take necessary action on probable cause cases without jeopardizing constitutional or statutory rights.

3. Defense attorneys will request bond conferences for any defendant who was scheduled for a bond hearing. The holding of a bond conference will not result in a waiver of the defendant’s right to be present for a bond hearing in the future.

4. Defendants will not appear for video First Appearance hearings. Judge Trosch has entered an administrative order appointing the Public Defender for all defendants on the first appearance docket on Friday.

Officials said there is no outbreak at the North Detention Center and there is no impact on juvenile detention hearings.