COVID surge through county jail has run its course

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple announced at a March 2020 county briefing that one of his deputies had tested positive for COVID-19 but there “wasn’t even a hiccup” in running the department. No mention of a COVID-19 outbreak at the county’s jail was mentioned in the regular county briefings.

ALBANY COUNTY — The surge of COVID-19 that swept through Albany County’s jail in January appears to have run its course.

“We went through a month of hell,” the county’s sheriff, Craig Apple, told Bill Clay when Clay asked about it at the county legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Feb. 25. Clay chairs the committee.

“We peaked at 189 cases,” said Apple. “At one point, I had 80 staff members out.”

He also said, “I will credit the jail again because for ten-and-a-half months, we had zero and, all of a sudden, we knew, once it got in, it was going to go through there so it did. But last week I reported zero COVID cases. This morning, zero COVID cases. Zero staff out as a result.”

Apple said that, during the month of hell, no one had a severe case and that most of them were asymptomatic.

Apple told The Enterprise on Monday that 189 out of roughly 330 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 and he said that 110 of the staff members at the county jail, which number in the “low 300s,” had tested positive.

“I blasted it out on social media,” he said of how the public was informed of the outbreak, “because I wanted them to know we were on top of it.”

Apple presumes the virus came in with a civilian staff member or with a corrections officer.

“We had been segregating the inmates when they came in and giving them 14 days of quarantine,” he told The Enterprise. “And then, once it got in … it went through there like wildfire …. It came in like a lion and left just as fast, like a lion.”

“We’ve been sanitizing and doing everything we could do and it was just a matter of really spreading everybody out and riding it out and we did,”Apple told the committee members.

Apple also told the committee members that “60-some” of the corrections staff were getting their second and final shot of COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 25.

“Then we’re just about done with those who wanted it,” he said. “We do have some that do not want it,” Apple said of getting vaccinated.

Of the jail’s 330 inmates, he said, only 20 inmates want to be vaccinated. The state, however, is not yet offering vaccinations to inmates.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Apple said.

He concluded, “As far as staff goes, those who have wanted to get the shot have had the opportunity at this point. Hopefully, some of the others will change their mind down the road.”

Apple told The Enterprise that he has been vaccinated and, while there is no mandate for staff to be vaccinated, he encourages it.

“It’s just a matter of education,” Apple said. “I try to push it to everyone I can.”

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