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Suspected COVID-19 patient in Brighton jail by order of Monroe County Health 

An individual who displayed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but who refused testing has been placed in isolation at Monroe County’s detention facility in Brighton under an order imposed by the Monroe County Department of Public Health.

Sheriff Todd Baxter said the individual was taken into custody late Thursday and first transported to Strong Memorial Hospital for evaluation before being taken to the Brighton jail.

"The Monroe County Public Health Department has determined the individual's non-compliance with a health order of isolation endangers safety, health, and well-being of citizens in Monroe County," read a statement issued Friday by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. "The individual was given multiple opportunities to comply with the Health Department order."

Under the county's "Isolation and Quarantine Plan," a document that was approved in 2014 and updated in February, the public health commissioner can issue an order for involuntary isolation if he determines that an individual has disobeyed a quarantine request and believes the individual to be an immediate threat to public health.

A court order is required to hold the individual for more than 24 hours, according to the plan. A county spokeswoman said the county had received a court order from state Supreme Court Justice Scott Odorisi. 

"It is someone in our community under an order from (Public Health Commissioner) Dr. Michael Mendoza and, what, there are like several hundred right now," Baxter said in an interview.

"Every one of those people are compliant to the point that Dr. Mendoza and his staff are comfortable," he went on. "But sooner or later, we anticipated that we may have an individual in the community that refuses to comply with those isolation orders and, if so, what would we do with those people legally, first of all, and secondly, physically. Where would you isolate them?"

The Sheriff's Office only a day earlier had cleared the Brighton jail of inmates, transferring the roughly 20 or so who were there to the county’s main jail in downtown Rochester, in preparation for making the Brighton facility a COVID-19 confinement center, Baxter said.

click to enlarge A Monroe County Sheriff's deputy outside the Monroe County Jail in downtown Rochester. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • A Monroe County Sheriff's deputy outside the Monroe County Jail in downtown Rochester.

Baxter said his office had been working for weeks with the Public Health Department, the Law Department, and region’s supervising judge, Supreme Court Justice Craig Doran, to establish an isolation center in Brighton.

“Our discussion inside the organization was, ‘What if we get a case inside the jail? Where are we going to isolate these individuals and quarantine them?’” Baxter said. “Second, what if we get an outside case, where are we going to isolate and quarantine them?”

“It was a move we anticipated,” he added. “We were hoping we wouldn’t have to do any quarantines from people on the outside, but if we had to we thought, where could we put them as far as away from the general population as possible and not contaminate anybody else.”

As of Friday, there were two individuals in isolation in Brighton.

The second was an individual facing violent felony charges who was transported there Friday morning after a routine health screening at the downtown jail revealed the individual had symptoms of COVID-19, Baxter said. That individual will remain in isolation for at least 14 days, Baxter said.

Neither of the individuals in isolation in Brighton have been confirmed to have COVID-19. They were placed in rooms that Baxter described as having Plexiglas doors.

No inmates or jail deputies at either facility have tested positive for the disease, either, Baxter said. He added, however, that some deputies have self-quarantined after reporting that they had come in contact with individuals who displayed symptoms.

Prior to being turned into an COVID-19 isolation center, the Brighton facility had been used to house inmates going through the county's STAR Academy, a transitional program for incarcerated people.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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