CLAY COUNTY — While many jails in the Kansas City metropolitan area have been working to vaccinate inmates against COVID-19, Clay County Detention Center in Liberty has yet to administer any vaccines to inmates to date.
“The county has not yet provided vaccines to them, but should within the next week or two,” Clay County Sheriff’s Office PR Manager Sarah Boyd told the Courier-Tribune Monday, July 26, of the 246 current inmates in the jail.
The news comes after The Kansas City Star reported on vaccination rates and offerings in jail facilities across the metro area. On the Kansas side, more than 50% of the inmates in Wyandotte County Detention Center have been fully vaccinated. Johnson County Detention Center, also on the Kansas side of the metro, began offering the vaccine to inmates in March.
In Missouri’s portion of the metro, according to Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté, Jackson County Detention Center vaccinated 104 inmates on April 15. This was after the jail had an outbreak this winter. The jail, according to The Star, is working with county officials on a second opportunity for inmates to receive vaccinations.
In the Northland, Platte County Detention Center held a vaccine clinic May 20 and is in discussions with the health department for more clinics.
As for Clay County, Boyd said the sheriff’s office has not vaccinated inmates yet because, thanks to intake protocols that include isolating and monitoring an inmate for 10 days upon booking, COVID-19 infection rates among inmates have been minimal.
“The whole time, we’ve only had four positive cases; that’s since this last March of 2020,” she told the Courier-Tribune of inmate infections. “There hasn’t been a huge need. But, we do want to be able, especially with the Delta variant and how transmissible it is, want to make sure it’s available to any inmate that wants it.”
While there have only been four cases of COVID among inmates and none that required hospitalization, the number of infections among sheriff’s office detention center staff, who can and do leave the facility daily and have the possibility of interacting with more people who may be infected, remains unclear.
Since the CDC changed its guidelines on mask recommendations for those vaccinated, jail staff, Boyd said, have not been required to wear masks while on duty.
“The contact with staff is pretty minimal. The greatest contact is during the booking process. After that, meals are taken into a dayroom and left there for the inmates to pick up,” said Boyd. “Other than medical visits, there’s not very much face-to-face contact. When (detention center staff) are walking the halls, they don’t go into the dayrooms too often, unless there is a disturbance.”
If a COVID-19 outbreak did happen among inmates, Boyd said the jail can isolate pods of the jail population to limit spread. Currently, pods contain roughly between 10 to 15 inmates, but can include up to 30. If necessary, as is the case during a lockdown, all inmates can be individually isolated.
Boyd said within the last week, detention center staff have been surveying inmates to determine how many are interested in receiving the free vaccine and that the sheriff’s office is working with Clay County Public Health Center to secure vaccine doses and Liberty Fire Department to administer them to inmates.