Coronavirus // COVID-19

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is preparing to respond to challenges related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic, it said in a March 11 news release.

The sheriff’s office has “developed extensive written plans” to address risks to public health, noting over the past several years it has responded to outbreaks like SARS and H1N1.

“At present, the public shouldn’t see any big difference in the way HCSO operates,” Sheriff Dave Hutchinson said in the release. “That said, conditions are continually changing. We have a team of people on staff who are in constant communication with medical experts, and we are ready to adapt to changing conditions as we need to. We are confident in our ability to serve the public, provide appropriate medical care to the inmates in our jail, and to ensure that our staff has access to the best precautions available to avoid contracting this illness. It is a very challenging time, and we hope that everyone can come together and follow the guidelines offered by the CDC.”

Public-facing units, such as patrol, water patrol, 911 dispatch and court services, are not currently affected “in any way” by the presence of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Jail is closed to visitors

The sheriff’s office is taking additional precautions in the Hennepin County Jail, like screening incoming people for signs of the virus, and in a March 15 news release, the sheriff’s office said it has canceled all social visitation of inmates at the Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis.

“We do not take this decision lightly,” Sheriff Dave Hutchinson said in the March 15 news release, “we know how important it is to our inmates to stay in touch with families and how important it is for families to see their inmates. The most important consideration for us, though, is the safety of our inmates and our detention center staff. After working with our medical team through the past few days, we determined that even with limited physical contact, the risk of contamination from a visitor to the facility is still too high. This is a fluid situation; we will continue working with our medical experts and our colleagues from the Minnesota Department of Corrections determine how to best keep our inmates and staff safe.”

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.