By Brian Maass

(CBS4) – Dozens of inmates and deputies at the Jefferson County jail have tested positive for COVID-19, and one inmate is hospitalized in what a department spokesperson terms a “significant” outbreak.

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Karlyn Tilley, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said as of Wednesday morning, 42 inmates have tested positive for COVID and a 43rd inmate with COVID has been hospitalized. Tilley said she was not sure if the inmate was hospitalized due to COVID or another health issue. Eight detention deputies have also tested positive and four other deputies are awaiting test results, said Tilley.

Another 45 inmates are in isolation, which means they have either been exposed, have displayed symptoms or are newly arrived at the jail and isolation is part of the jail’s protocol.

“It’s one of the larger ones we’ve had,” said Tilley, who said she was not sure if this was the jail’s largest COVID outbreak. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t increase.”

(credit: CBS)

The sheriff does not require deputies to be vaccinated but encourages it, said Tilley. She said inmates are offered vaccinations but inmates are not forced to get vaccinated.

Tilley said jail authorities are trying to figure out how this outbreak began and have stepped up testing of jail staff members from once a week to twice a week.

Other area jails have also reported recent COVID outbreaks. The Denver Downtown Detention Center has reported dozens of inmates with positive tests in recent weeks. The Arapahoe County Jail has also reported an outbreak among inmates.

A national organization monitoring COVID in jails and prisons has said inmates are at high risk for exposure to COVID-19 and a majority of the largest, single-site outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic have been in jails and prisons.

Brian Maass