August 7, 2020
Mr. Rodney Jenkins
Director, Durham County Health Department
Dear Director Jenkins,
Thank you for your recent reply to our letter of June 30. You responded to three questions from us, and we briefly address each of those responses here.
First, we asked you about publishing current and future testing data and results specific to the Durham County Detention Facility. You replied that the information could be found via a link on the Durham County Coronavirus Datahub to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. However, correctional facilities are not listed on the site unless there is an outbreak. We believe that the most appropriate and transparent policy would be to list the number of tests given along with the number of positive and negative results regardless of an outbreak (even if those numbers are ‘0’). We understand that Sheriff Birkhead currently provides you with this data, so publication is not overly burdensome nor does it violate privacy rights. In fact, the publication of this data would be consistent with the Covid-19 information published by the NC Department of Public Safety for all its facilities (number of tests, positives, negatives). We ask you again to publish these numbers for the Durham Detention Facility.
Second, we asked if you would provide tests or advocate for funding to test all residents at the Detention Facility, and you replied “yes.” As a follow up we ask you to clarify: are you committing to provide tests to all residents? If not, how do you plan to advocate for funding for the tests? We are aware that Durham County is receiving a second payment of CARES Act funds from the State in the amount of $6,239,422. As you are aware, we have been in communication with Deputy County Manager Jodi Miller about the plans for these funds, and she has indicated that Durham County Staff must request funds for COVID-related expenses so that a plan can be drafted and approved by the County Commissioners. Will you ensure that the amount that you and Sheriff Birkhead calculate is needed to perform COVID testing for all staff and residents, current and new arrivals, at the Durham County Detention Facility is included in this plan? Further, how can we help you to advocate for such funding?
Finally, we asked you for a virtual meeting in the next month and you asked for additional time given your responsibilities as Director of Public Health. Of course we appreciate all your hard work during this pandemic and we gratefully accept your proposal for a meeting in the next few months.
Durham Congregations Associations and Neighborhoods