SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw County Jail is currently experiencing a rash of COVID-19 cases, with Sheriff William Federspiel also among those who have recently tested positive.
Undersheriff Mike Gomez said that as of Wednesday, Dec. 2, there are 22 inmates who have tested positive for coronavirus. He added the number has fluctuated as cases are confirmed via laboratory results.
All inmates who have tested positive are being housed in pods and are separated by their genders, Gomez said.
Inmates who have not tested positive have but have had contact with those who have had the virus are being isolated from the general population, Gomez added.
The jail, located at 311 S. Harrison St. in Saginaw, has a current population of 367. It can house a maximum of 511 inmates.
“As of today, all positive inmates have experienced minor symptoms except one,” Gomez said. “This inmate was transported to a local hospital (and) has since returned and is reportedly doing well.”
In addition, 12 employees have tested positive, eight of whom are corrections officers and four of which are law enforcement officers. Among those who have tested positive is Sheriff Federspiel.
The sheriff, along with two corrections officers, are the only three among the 12 who are still off-duty due to the virus, Gomez said. Federspiel may return to work as soon as Monday, Dec. 7, Gomez said.
MLive-The Saginaw News was unable to reach Federspiel directly for comment.
Gomez said the first test was confirmed a couple of weeks ago. He did not know if the outbreak began with an inmate or an employee.
“Our jail staff and medical staff are monitoring the inmates closely and are doing an excellent job with the care of all the inmates,” Gomez said. “Masks have been passed out and are available. The inmates have been instructed to wash hands and observe other safety precautions as much as possible.”
Saginaw County as a whole has had 8,502 positive cases and 249 COVID-related deaths as of Wednesday.
In a Zoom press conference held Wednesday morning, Saginaw County Health Officer Chris Harrington said positivity rates’ seven-day average peaked at 16.9 percent around Nov. 19.
“Positivity has come down a little bit,” Harrington said. “In addition, test results have been fairly stable. We’re still at about 1,000 people a day is what we’re testing in Saginaw County. We’ve actually had a two-week decline in our number of new cases per million population.”
Despite the decline after the recent spike, officials are remaining cautious, saying the number of deaths still has them concerned, Harrington said.
After a spike in deaths in April and May, the amount trickled down from June through October, Harrington said.
“We are now seeing deaths happening at the same rate we saw in the April and May timeframe,” she said. “That’s very concerning.”
Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 1, the county had 85 deaths attributed to COVID-19, Harrington said. The highest percentage — 37.5% — were of people between the ages of 80 and 89. Of the deaths, 22 percent were of people who lived in congregate settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Furthermore, the number of new cases doubled in November to more than 8,000 compared to 4,000 in March through the end of October.