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First detainee contracts COVID-19 in Harford County

Man arrived at the detention center last month
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 18:10:12-05

BEL AIR, Md. — Since March, corrections officers and even healthcare providers at the Harford County Detention Center had come down with an occasional case of coronavirus, but the detainees had remained COVID-free.

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler says a male inmate who arrived here in mid-December has now tested positive.

“That inmate has been moved to an isolation unit being closely monitored by our staff and by the healthcare providers and will be there until he has a clear test and can be returned to the general population,” said Gahler.

The infected detainee’s cellmate thus far has tested negative for the virus, but contact tracing has yet to determine how the inmate contracted it, which illustrates the difficulty in isolating its path.

“In a secure environment where we can pretty much know where a lot of people are at all times---certainly the inmate population as well as our staff moving throughout the facility at certain check times, it is frustrating,” said Gahler. “but again, it’s reassuring the steps we have taken have lasted this long.”

Vaccines have arrived in Harford County, and to date, the sheriff says about a third of his law enforcers and correctional workers, about 200 of them, have shown a willingness to get the shots.

Fortunately, in a facility with ample space that’s not being used, isolating the lone infected detainee has not been difficult, and the sheriff says he’s confidant the same protocols, which have worked effectively for so long will help contain it.

“I’m thankful it’s only one case,” said Gahler. “I wish it was still zero. I’m thankful it’s only one case so far, but we don’t have that priority that we’re going to be banging down someone’s door to get the entire detention center vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The sheriff says before anyone can be detained here at the facility, they must be quarantined for at least 14 days, which suggests the person who has contracted it must have gotten it inside the facility.