Inverness Jail outbreak ends as vaccinations continue

March 23, 2021

Multnomah County Public Health declared the COVID-19 outbreak at Inverness Jail at an end on March 23. The determination came after 28 days passed — or two full incubation periods for the virus — without a new case.

The closure marks the end of one the most challenging periods at the Inverness detention facility where about 500 adults are in custody, living mostly in large open dorms with shared dining and shower facilities. 

Since the first positive case was identified in December, 198 adults in custody and 31 corrections staff or members of their households tested positive. It was the largest and longest outbreak at either of the County’s two detention centers, where only a small number of cases had occurred for most of the pandemic.

The Inverness cases were identified through regular, repeat testing of people who had been exposed to someone with a positive test. Almost all who tested positive had no symptoms or mild symptoms. One person was briefly hospitalized. No one died.

Working with Public Health, Corrections Health staff collected a small number of samples for the Oregon State laboratory and Oregon Health & Sciences University to test for the variant to see if it was one of the CDC variants of concern.  None of the variants were found.

Sheriff Mike Reese thanked the Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines and Public Health epidemiologists Sara McCall and Taylor Pinsent who worked with Corrections Health Director Dr. Michael Seale and his staff and the Sheriff’s Office to isolate anyone positive, quarantine those individuals who had been exposed and carefully monitor the health of all.

“You have been exceptional partners,’’ Sheriff Reese told the health officials who investigated, advised and launched vaccinations at the jail. “This has been a really challenging time for all of us and your professional guidance and support was invaluable.”

Dr. Seale echoed his support, saying in a meeting on Tuesday, that the end of the outbreak is the result of coordinated efforts between Corrections Health, Public Health and the Sheriff’s Office.

Inverness Jail is now expected to come off the Oregon Health Authority’s list of active outbreaks, and jail operations will largely return to usual operations under COVID. Among the practices that will continue: limited movement by adults in custody; no in-person visits; the wearing of procedural masks by all; regular deep cleaning; and fewer and less frequent admissions of new people into the facility.

Since early February, staff has been offering vaccines to adults in custody, with 286 people having received one dose, and 224 of those fully vaccinated. Dozens of others who were vaccinated have been released. Public Health is now working with Corrections Health to expand a vaccination pilot program at the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Health Officer Vines called the vaccination efforts an important step for public health. “We want to protect people within the walls, but we are also protecting people who are returning to the community,’’ she said. “It’s good for them, and good for the community.’’