Milwaukee County HOC opens COVID-19 alternate care facility

Coronavirus cases continue to climb across Wisconsin, and that includes inside of jails and prisons.

Roughly one out of every five inmates inside the Milwaukee County House of Correction is currently COVID-19 positive. FOX6 News got an exclusive look at a new facility that looks to handle the case surge.

The House of Correction has transformed one of its buildings into its own alternate care facility for COVID-19 patients. The room that FOX6 was shown on Tuesday, Dec. 1 was used pre-pandemic for a vermiculture program. Now, the worms and dirt have been replaced with oxygen ports.

At first glance, the room seems rather simple; 30 beds and not much else. But there is a reason for the simplicity.

Dave Rugaber

"This is a UVC unit by Skytron. It uses UVC radiation, and it kills the COVID-19 virus," said Dave Rugaber, assistant superintendent at the House of Correction.

Every part of the room is designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It is one of four dorms inside the House of Correction's alternate care facility. One dorm is equipped for people in need of oxygen.

"The virus spread so quickly. I mean it's unbelievable how quickly this virus can spread," Rugaber said.

Rugaber said the House of Correction is currently seeing its highest COVID-19 numbers with 159 inmates positive for the virus. About half of those inmates come from the Milwaukee County Jail.

"I would say initially it came from people coming into the facility, and then once it establishes a foothold, it is so hard to eradicate. That's something we battle every day. It's tough sometimes," Rugaber said.

The alternate care facility is the newest tool to fight that battle against COVID-19. It was created in April but did not open until Saturday, Nov. 28.

Rugaber said cases were low until a sharp increase in mid-November. They are hoping the new isolation strategy will help bring the numbers back to zero.

"We continue to improve every day," said Rugaber.

There are currently 27 inmates inside one of the dorms. Two of the other dorms inside the alternate care facility are expected to open up by the end of the week.