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County jail has first virus-positive inmate

The Marquette County Courthouse Annex in the city of Marquette is pictured. Officials at the Marquette County Jail report that an inmate there has tested positive for COVID-19, the first case at the jail. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Jail has reported its first confirmed COVID-19 positive inmate. That individual, who is from out of the area, was lodged at the jail early Friday morning by the Michigan State Police.

The Marquette County Sheriff’s Office said in a Tuesday statement that upon lodging, the individual was screened and was not showing any symptoms, such as cough or a fever. However, the person reported she might have had contact with someone who had the virus in Wisconsin.

Per the Marquette County Jail’s protocol, the individual was isolated from the general population and was administered a test. The positive test result was received around 24 hours later.

In a telephone interview with The Mining Journal, Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt emphasized that through the booking process, it was determined the inmate had contact with a person who had tested positive for COVID-19. The inmate was in the area visiting friends.

“Of course, that got everyone on their edges,” Zyburt said.

For Wednesday, May 27.

He also noted that new inmates are kept in a separate area for 14 days.

“Quite often, inmates are released on bond before that 14 days,” Zyburt said.

That was the case with the inmate who tested positive for COVID-19.

Zyburt said he believes the inmate was released early Sunday morning. The inmate now is self-isolating.

The Marquette County Health Department is working with the sheriff’s office regarding this matter, he said, with the health department trying to ensure the inmate is staying away from other people.

“I know it was inevitable,” Zyburt said of the positive case. “It was going to happen sooner or later, and the staff was quite nervous.”

The sheriff’s office stressed that this person was never in the general population of the jail and had been isolated since coming in.

Jail staff who had contact with the inmate have been tested and so far, all the tests have been negative.

More testing will be done next week. Inmates and staff were offered tests on May 14 which were administered by the Michigan National Guard. All tests were negative at that time.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county jail established protocols to protect the staff and inmates, officials said.

When an arrested individual is brought to the jail, they are not brought in to the general population. Staff wear masks and gloves during the booking procedure. Each inmate is asked a series of questions related to health, travel and contact or contacts with others with COVID-19.

Once booked in, the inmate is not immediately placed with the general population. They are kept in a separate location within the jail that has separate air handling from the main facility. They stay in this part of the jail for 14 days and are isolated from the jail’s general population.

Proper personal protective equipment use is continued when contacting the inmates, officials said.

Sheriff’s office open

The doors to the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office lobby now are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, it encourages the public to continue using the U.S. Postal Service or the dropbox by the Marquette County Courthouse Annex whenever possible for pistol sales records and payments.

The sheriff’s office also encourages individuals seeking a permit to purchase a firearm to call ahead so the paperwork can be completed prior to their arrival. They may call ahead for other services as well since they might be handled over the phone, email or fax.

People are asked to not enter the lobby if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. For more information, call 906-225-8435.

Testing criteria expanded

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced it is greatly expanding testing criteria for COVID-19 to provide access to additional residents who do not have symptoms but are at risk.

The new criteria include asymptomatic patients who are preparing for surgery if testing is deemed necessary by the treating health professional. It also includes asymptomatic people who have known exposure to someone who has COVID-19 or symptoms, or who work in a profession that puts them at high risk of exposure due to close contact with the public, such as dental technicians, or to COVID-19 outbreaks in certain industries, such as food processing facilities.

The new testing criteria also emphasizes the need to expand options for people without symptoms who live in communities where there has been inequitable access to testing, as well as the need to increase the rate of people tested per day in these areas. For example, this includes rural communities and areas with higher proportions of racial/ethnic minorities.

Anyone who wishes to be tested may call the Michigan coronavirus hotline at 1-888-535-6136 or visit Michigan.gov/CoronavirusTest to find an appropriate testing location, including a list of sites offering testing at no cost.

Some casinos to reopen

Four of Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes — Bay Mills Indian Community, Gun Lake Tribe, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe — announced they will open their casinos beginning Friday. Each tribe’s reopening date might differ, though at least one reopening will be on Friday.

Bay Mills Indian Community operates the Bay Mills Resort and Casino and Kings Club Casino in Brimley.

Protocols to be implemented upon reopening include limiting the number of guests inside the casino, checking guests’ temperatures before they enter, limiting the number of table games and slot machines, enhanced cleaning procedures, hygienic practices for staff and guests, reducing food and drink service options to limit human-to-human contact, dedicating some team members to continuously clean and sanitize, and requiring staff to wear personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

Work Share program available

As Michigan businesses begin to reopen, employers are urged to use the state’s Work Share program, which helps employers experiencing economic pain due to COVID-19 retain their workforce and bring back employees from lay-off as they restart their businesses.

Work Share allows employers to bring employees back from unemployment with reduced hours while employees collect partial unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news release. Job providers can also use the flexible program to retain their skilled workforce and avoid layoffs when revenues decline.

Under the program, a worker receives a reduced salary from an employer, but is given a percentage of their state benefits plus the additional $600 federal payment in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — or CARES — Act through July. The entire Work Share program is federally funded through the rest of the year.

Employers who need to reduce hours and wages by 10% to 60% can enroll employees in the program.

The program offers many options for employers, allowing multiple plans and the option to choose which employees participate in each plan. Employers can create a plan or plans that fit their specific needs with hours reduced by as little as 10% and as much as 60%. There is a minimum of two employees per plan, which can be approved for up to a year and can be ended at any time without penalty.

Employers may visit Michigan.gov/WorkShare for a tutorial on how to sign up, frequently asked questions and other resources to participate in the program.

Christie Mastric can be reached at cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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