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COVID-19 confirmed among Big Horn county jail inmates

COVID-19 confirmed among Big Horn county jail inmates

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Big Horn County confirmed 21 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, including several inmates at the county jail. 

In a press release posted Friday evening, health officials added 10 more cases to those initially reported earlier in the day, with the majority testing positive after showing symptoms. 

All of the inmates who tested positive are asymptomatic, and have been moved into quarantine within the facility located in Hardin, Big Horn County Public Information Officer Rhonda Johnson told The Billings Gazette. She could not confirm exactly how many had tested positive, and estimated the jail to have 36 total inmates. Big Horn County law enforcement did not immediately respond to clarify.

"The jail reported that the first inmates tested positive earlier in the week," she said. 

Big Horn County confirmed that a detention officer at Big Horn County jail had contracted the virus last week, one of four county employees to test positive for COVID-19. The officer had not worked in the jail for three days prior to testing, Johnson said in an email.

Starting in May, Johnson said, the jail had conducted sentinel testing on a monthly basis of all of its inmates and staff members willing to participate. That testing ceased earlier in the month when a surge in cases forced the state to prioritize symptomatic testing and contact tracing of confirmed cases. 

Johnson said that all of the tests conducted at the jail through sentinel testing, which has taken several weeks in some cases, had been processed as of Friday night. 

Of the 21 new cases reported Friday in Big Horn County, 14 resulted from those tested after coming into contact with previously reported positive cases. The county reported four people dying in less than a day due to the virus Thursday night. 

Big Horn County, which has the state's second highest count of active COVID-19 cases at 206, encompasses an area that includes both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations. As of July 31, the Northern Cheyenne Incident Command Center reported 4 active cases. 

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