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Inmates in Weber County Jail sue sheriff over COVID-19 outbreak

A number of federal inmates at the Weber County Jail have filed a lawsuit alleging the county sheriff and other officials failed to protect them from a coronavirus outbreak. (PHOTO: File)

WEBER COUNTY, Utah — A number of federal inmates at the Weber County Jail have filed a lawsuit alleging the county sheriff and other officials failed to protect them from the coronavirus. It comes after a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail reportedly sickened more than 100 people.

Weber County Jail COVID-19 outbreak

The lawsuit alleges the sheriff and U.S. Marshals did not take proper precautions to protect inmates from the virus and their mishandling caused an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Weber County Jail.

The lawsuit names as defendants Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon; Matt Harris, the U.S. Marshal for the District of Utah; and Donald Washington, director of the U.S. Marshal Service. Those individuals have not yet responded in court documents. 

The inmates are asking for those who are deemed “medically vulnerable” to be transferred out of the jail. They also want inmates transferred who are confirmed to have the virus, in addition to extra prisoners who are overcrowding the jail.

Lastly, the lawsuit is seeking a judge’s order directing jailers to follow CDC guidelines, which the inmates claim they have not been honoring.

According to the Deseret News, the jail has claimed in the past to be taking widespread precautions, like requiring masks and isolating inmates who test positive.

Other side to the story

The inmates filing suit disagree. Those individuals are Taylor William Hobbs, Antonio Velasquez, Juan Sandoval-Pasos, Jackson Stuart Tamowski Patton, Gregorio Ramirez Frias and Zachary Robert Babcok.

They claim an inmate who arrived with a cough, which was one of the jail’s first two infected prisoners, was not tested. Rather, that person was housed with the general population. The lawsuit alleges the inmate developed further symptoms and tested positive at the jail eight days later.

Five of the inmates filing suit alleging the jail has failed to test them for coronavirus. They also say the jail has not given them proper medical care, despite rising cases of the virus. Their federal public defenders argue their current incarceration fits the definition of cruel and unusual punishment.

 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States