PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Fifteen inmates who contracted COVID-19 while at Multnomah County’s Inverness Jail are suing the county and Sheriff Mike Reese.
The inmates say the county and sheriff were negligent by not taking proper safety precautions, denying testing and mixing infected inmates and guards with those who were healthy in jail dorms, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was “woefully inadequate,” the suit alleges, noting that 38% of adults in custody in the Northeast Portland jail tested positive by Feb. 17. The jail houses about 5,126 inmates.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chris Liedle on Tuesday declined comment on the pending litigation.
On March 23, Multnomah County Public Health declared the coronavirus outbreak at Inverness Jail over, calling it one of the ” most challenging periods” at the jail. It was the largest and longest outbreak at either of the county’s two detention centers.
The plaintiffs are seeking a court order that will require social distancing, proper testing, sanitation and compliance by county jails with federal and state health guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Oregon Health Authority.
It also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Attorneys Carl Post, John Burgess and Tara Herivel filed the class action suit in U.S. District Court in Portland on Monday.