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Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Issues Statement On COVID-19 Testing And Vaccination

NEW ORLEANS - 02-18-2021

Following is a statement from Sheriff Marlin Gusman regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccination at OPSO:

"The nature of corrections involves working and living in extremely close quarters. Our agency has already experienced the loss of three of our staff members because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of this pandemic, we have availed ourselves of every available tool to protect our staff, inmates, and the community.

"Immediately after tests became accessible, OPSO was one of the first agencies statewide to implement mass testing of all staff, contractors, and inmates every 21 days. Combined with daily temperature checks of all staff and inmates, as well as mandatory quarantine for inmates at intake, this protocol has resulted in our ability to control the community spread of COVID-19 in our facility among both staff and inmates. Throughout this pandemic, we have given all staff members two calendar weeks of paid leave to ensure that exposed or symptomatic individuals had the incentive to remain home.

"Recently, another tool in the fight against COVID-19, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, became available to the OPSO with the assistance of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association. The vaccine has not only been proven to prevent infection of COVID-19 in the vast majority of circumstances but has also been shown to eliminate cases which lead to hospitalization or death. Working with Ochsner Health Systems, our agency was able to obtain and administer over 750 COVID-19 vaccines to our staff and contractors.

"OPSO is faced with the reality of a highly vulnerable situation with respect to COVID-19 – operating a jail required to accept arrestees who are COVID-19 positive, and having staff members who enter and leave the facility daily. Requiring this vaccine as a condition of entry into our facilities makes our staff, their families, our inmates, and the public safer. Our policy was drafted with the assistance of legal counsel and provides accommodations for medical and religious circumstances. No staff member will be terminated because of his or her refusal to take the vaccine.

"The OPSO will continue to remain at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and strives for continued success at minimizing its impacts in the Orleans Justice Center."

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