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GREELEY — The Weld County sheriff’s office has announced plans Tuesday to distance 89 inmates deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 from other inmates in the county jail following orders to do so from a federal judge.

Judge Philip Brimmer ruled earlier this month that Sheriff Steve Reams failed to take adequate measures to protect inmates and violated their Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, the Greeley Tribune reported.


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The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado on behalf of seven inmates who said they were susceptible to being infected with the coronavirus.

For most people, new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Medical staff screened inmates on May 13 and determined 89 were vulnerable, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. But about 390 of the 450 inmates were considered vulnerable under ACLU standards, the sheriff’s office said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines offered a narrower set of standards than the ACLU’s standards, which include people age 55 and older and people with smoking or substance abuse histories.

MORE: Coronavirus deaths at Colorado nursing homes, senior facilities reach 711; outbreaks reported at restaurants and stores

Reams argued he and staff members were using standards similar to the ACLU, which included a majority of inmates. He said the jail took action to protect all inmates from the coronavirus in the same way instead of taking additional measures for selected inmates.

“Never in my six years as your elected sheriff have I been more personally disappointed by a court’s ruling,” Reams said, adding that he is concerned the court is turning CDC guidelines into law.

Since the court ruling, the sheriff’s office has distanced newly-admitted vulnerable inmates and vulnerable inmates already at the jail, enhanced sanitation measures, provided facial coverings and increased monitoring.