EAU CLAIRE — As of Dec. 21, the Eau Claire County Jail has three people who are currently positive for COVID-19: two staff and one incarcerated person. Overall, the county jail has performed 362 COVID-19 tests, 25 of which were positive for the virus, a rate of 6.9%.
At a COVID-19 mass testing event on Dec. 1 at the county jail, Capt. Dave Riewestahl with the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office’s security services division, said there was a low participation rate among staff and incarcerated individuals and that he didn’t have ”a good answer for why.”
Among those who were tested Dec. 1, Riewestahl said everyone received a negative result for the virus. The Eau Claire County Judiciary and Law Enforcement Committee received this information during its meeting Wednesday.
Regarding future COVID-19 vaccination, correctional officers are considered essential employees who would likely be part of the second wave of people who can be vaccinated after health care workers. As of now, Riewestahl said it is unclear when incarcerated people will have the opportunity to receive vaccines.
On that front, Supervisor Melissa Janssen, a member of the Judiciary and Law Enforcement Committee, said she is planning to introduce a resolution during next month’s County Board meeting that would prioritize vaccination for all staff and incarcerated people at correctional facilities.
“These are people in our care,” Janssen said. “We need to be doing what we can do to protect these citizens.”
The committee did not take a vote, since the resolution isn’t finalized, but members generally said they would support the resolution if it is considered by the County Board. Supervisor Jerry Wilkie said incarcerated people can be “the forgotten population too easily.”
In November, the average daily population at the county jail was about 181 people, down from 185 in October. Of that average, 152 people were housed in the secure section of the jail, a decrease from 157 in October; 25 were in the Huber section, down from 23 in October; and four people were furloughed, down from five last month.
Through the first 11 months of this year, 75% of people incarcerated at the county jail were white; Eau Claire County’s population is 91.8% white. Also, 18.4% of people incarcerated were Black, while only 1.2% of the county’s population is Black. And 2.5% of people incarcerated were Asian; 4.4% of the county’s population is Asian. Moreover, 2.4% of people incarcerated were American Indian; 0.6% of the county’s population is American Indian. And 0.8% of people incarcerated were Hispanic; 2.6% of the county’s population is Hispanic.
Those numbers are similar to 2019, when the people incarcerated at the county jail were 78% White; 14.1% Black; 3.7% Asian; 3.4% American Indian and 0.5% Hispanic.
Riewestahl said the jail has had 10 employee resignations this year, including five in the past 60 days.
The next Judiciary and Law Enforcement Committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27.