Yakima County jail DOC corrections coronavirus COVID-19

FILE — The 14-day quarantine cell unit Thursday, May 7, 2020, at the Yakima County Department of Corrections in Yakima, Wash. 

Yakima County Superior Court and two jails will continue operating with their COVID-19 control measures as the state battles another surge in virus cases.

Officials at the Yakima County jail and Yakima City Jail said they are continuing measures that were put in place earlier this year. Yakima County Superior Court will continue to use Zoom for hearings, while following strict social-distancing rules for hearings and trials conducted in courtrooms.

Superior Court has instituted COVID-19 measures “that meet or exceed recommendations” from the Yakima Health District and the Washington State Department of Health, a statement issued by the court administration said Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced prohibitions on social gatherings, indoor dining and gyms Sunday as the number of coronavirus infections climbed both in the state and nationally.

The Yakima County jail will continue to follow the procedures it has been using to reduce the spread of the disease, Chief Jeremy Welch said. The jail saw an outbreak this summer in which 34 officers and 130 inmates were infected. One of those officers, 58-year-old Daniel Oaks, died Aug. 1 from coronavirus, the county Department of Corrections’ first line-of-duty death.

Among the steps the jail has taken are screening inmates for symptoms during the booking process, isolating newly arrived inmates, requiring masks and testing inmates and staff.

“We haven’t had a case in more than nine weeks,” Welch said.

Likewise, at the Yakima City Jail, Cmdr. Maritza Davis said the jail will continue the procedures it implemented earlier this year.

“We’re not making any significant changes,” Davis said.

The city jail continues to limit bookings to mandatory arrests, such as domestic violence, drunken driving and Yakima Municipal Court warrants. Any exceptions must be approved by the watch commander, she said.

Those brought in are screened either in the jail’s secure entrance or department holding cell before being allowed in the jail facility, Davis said. Any showing symptoms must be medically cleared before they can be booked, she said.

The city jail has 20 inmates, with a capacity for 81, Davis said.

Once in the jail, inmates are issued masks. Staff members wear N95 masks, Davis said.

Both jails have barred in-person visits to further control the spread of the disease.

At Superior Court, judges are conducting hearing and trials over Zoom, with the proceedings livestreamed on Youtube for the public, the court’s news release said.

The court recently resumed jury trials, with jury selection taking place at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Court trials will be conducted under strict social distancing guidelines.

At the courthouse, people must wear masks and observe social distancing and courtroom capacity rules, the news release said.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: donaldwmeyers, or https://www.facebook.com/donaldwmeyersjournalist.