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County officials have been preparing jails for COVID-19


FARMINGTON — San Juan County officials shared details of protocols implemented to protect detainees at the county adult and juvenile detention centers from the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of people are housed between both facilities.

San Juan County CEO Mike Stark and county spokesperson Devin Neeley told The Daily Times that staff at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center and the Juvenile Detention Center started preparing for COVID-19 before the first cases arrived in the county.

No confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been found at either the detention center or in the San Juan County Alternative Sentencing Program, according to Stark.

"Everything we do is coordinated through the (New Mexico Department of Health)," Stark said. "Whether it be a detainee exposure or an employee who tested positive."

The alternative sentencing program operates multiple programs, including monitoring a misdemeanor offenders' compliance with their probation terms and the county's DWI Detention/Treatment/Aftercare Program.

If a detainee in either facility or in the alternative sentencing program tests positive, the county will release the information to the public.

"We would release that information as a measure of precaution and public safety," Stark said.

The county jail tends to house on average about 548 detainees, but that number has declined to 298 detainees as of April 20, Neeley said.

The juvenile detention center averaged about 28 detainees, and was at 18 detainees as of April 20.

The drop-in detainees is the result of a concerted effort involving law enforcement and local judges to try and avoid unnecessary detentions.

Stark said the efforts are designed to not put the public at risk, and suspects who need to be in jail are in jail.

He added someone who was arrested on a failure to appear warrant might not be a risk to public safety, depending on the nature of the crime.

Inmates are being screened as they are booked into the facilities including conducting contactless temperature scans and asking about any COVID-19 symptoms.

If a detainee shows any symptoms, they are provided with a mask and isolated in jail cells with equipment to limit the spread of COVID-19, using reverse airflow technology, Stark said.

There are plans if a massive outbreak of the coronavirus occurs at the jail, with pods set aside to quarantine many people.

Visitations for the adult detention center will continue to be conducted through off-site video visitation.

Detainees at the juvenile detention center have moved to telephonic visitation from in-person visitation conducted through safety glass.

Neeley said the best way to get information on the health of any detainee is to conduct telephonic or video visitation, as county officials are unable to share medical information due to HIPAA concerns.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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