County jail takes precautions to prevent virus spread

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The Sandoval County Detention Center is adding precautionary procedures to prevent COVID-19 from entering the jail.

Jail Director Gilbert Armendariz said the detention center is not allowing outside visitors to enter the secure part of the facility. This includes attorneys, religious groups and support groups.

However, video visits are still available to inmates.

The facility is undergoing renovations requiring contractors to enter. Before coming in, they participate in a health screening and have their temperatures taken.

All staff entering the detention center must do the same, Armendariz said.

Personal protective equipment like gloves and masks is accessible to all staff and contractors, he said.

“If anyone displays signs of any COVID-19 symptoms, they will be sent home and advised to seek medical attention. No one would be allowed back into the facility until they provided a medical clearance confirming they do not have COVID-19,” Armendariz said.

Jail staff is also screening inmates daily for symptoms of COVID-19 and testing is made available to them, he said.

“All detainees are now and have always been given a medical screening before they are accepted into the detention center,” Armendariz said. “If the detainee is suspected of having any medical issue, which would compromise the detainee or staff, the medical staff requires that the detainee be taken to a local medical provider, typically, a local hospital, for further evaluation and screening.”

The medical intake includes questions about COVID-19, he said.

If an inmate were to show symptoms of the coronavirus, Armendariz said staff would utilize the negative pressure cell.

A negative pressure cell controls the airflow in a room. A positive pressure room has air flowing away from it, while negative pressure rooms have air flowing into them to prevent airborne microorganisms inside getting out, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

In addition, the detention center would follow certain procedures if COVID-19 were to break out there, Armendariz said. Procedures are:

• keep the detainees separated from each other;

• transport ill detainees to hospitals for medical care;

• lock down the facility,

• monitor everyone in the detention center; and

• continue to monitor the situation to take any necessary actions.

Staff members have put up educational posters about COVID-19 and how to properly wash hands, Armendariz said.

“The detainees are counseled on the importance of and monitored to practice social distancing when outside their individual cells,” he said. “The detention center continues to evaluate situations and take any appropriate actions.”

Daily routines like how food is served and medical and dental accessibility have not changed. The staff has canceled all in-house group meetings such as life skills classes, group treatment sessions, and parenting skills education until further notice, Armendariz said.

Two inmates have been tested for COVID-19 and both tested negative, he said.