DENVER (KDVR) — The FOX31 Problem Solvers have learned the first Denver jail inmate to test positive for COVID-19 was placed into the general population after originally being placed in an isolation cell.
The inmate was arrested Sunday afternoon for misdemeanor harassment and taken to the downtown jail.
A deputy, who asked FOX31 to protect his identity, said the inmate was placed into a quarantine by an intake nurse because he claimed to have symptoms of COVID-19.
The deputy said that hours later, the inmate told a second nurse he was lying and because he showed no symptoms, the nurse and her supervisor agreed to move the inmate into the general population.
But on Monday morning, the inmate complained of chest pains. He was taken to Denver Health Medical Center, where he tested positive for COVID-19.
“Nobody had any protective equipment on. We’re working with this guy getting through this process. Everybody at this point becomes afraid. We’re afraid to take it to our families, our parents,” said the anonymous deputy.
Law enforcement sources told FOX31 up to 16 deputies were exposed by the inmate, a number the city of Denver refused to confirm or deny.
A city spokeswoman said two other inmates have been placed into quarantine as a result of their exposure to the inmate who tested positive.
But the deputy, who requested anonymity, said the city hasn’t taken any steps to protect deputies who might’ve been exposed other than sending them a questionnaire about their possible exposure.
“I don’t think any of the staff that was exposed should be going back to work, period,” said the deputy, who was told the city won’t test him because his exposure risk was considered low.
When asked if he would go back to work, the deputy responded, “I have to. You’re in a catch-22. You still have bills to pay. Will I wear a mask all night long? Absolutely, I will because you don’t want anybody to catch anything.”
The deputy said this case is proof that Denver should automatically test everyone that comes into the jail to be booked.
“You’re dealing with an entire population where you just may not know until after the fact. It scares you to death,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a city spokeswoman told FOX31 the infected inmate was being monitored by Denver Health medical professionals.
But a few hours later, deputies told the Problem Solvers the inmate had been released on a personal recognizance bond.
The city sent the following statement:
“The Denver Sheriff Department cannot legally hold an individual if they have posted bond. Denver Health worked with the Sheriff’s Department for discharge planning and provided instructions for self-quarantine and public health follow-up that was served to the individual upon release.”
Overall, three Denver inmates have tested positive for the virus.
Twenty inmates are showing symptoms. Nineteen of those 20 are located in the downtown jail; the other is in the county jail off of Smith Road.