Roughly 70% of inmates at the Pamunkey Regional Jail recently tested for COVID-19 are positive, causing the facility to go on lockdown, jail officials said in a statement Wednesday.
The facility, which takes offenders from the town of Ashland, Hanover and Caroline counties and the U.S. Marshals Service, can hold up to 549 inmates, but currently houses only 382.
Prisoners were tested for Coronavirus on September 4th and 5th, and drive-through testing for all staff was also conducted on the 5th, according to Col. James Willett, the jails superintendent.
“We received word on Monday, September 8th that 124 of the 178 (69.66 percent) offenders tested were positive,” Willett said in the release. “Additionally, the staff test results were returned the following day, of which 20 of 129 tests were confirmed positive.
“Immediately upon receiving offender results on Monday afternoon, affected individuals were identified and isolated from the general population.”
Willett also said that all positive employees have been placed on emergency paid leave.
Three staff and 12 inmates tests were still pending at the laboratory and one staff test was inconclusive which requires a retest. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths and the “vast majority” of positive staff and inmates were asymptomatic or were showing mild symptoms, according to Willett.
The first COVID-19 case at the Hanover County facility occurred back on August 20th, when two staff tested positive and then immediately self-isolated. The third case occurred on August 28th when a jail contractor tested positive and, on August 31st, another staff member reported positive as well, Willett said.
The first confirmed positive inmate case happened on September 3rd.
According to the Hanover County website, 252 inmate tests were conducted on Friday and all prisoners have been tested at that time.
COVID-19 case counts in Hanover County drastically increased on Thursday, the day after the release, with 122 cases, compared to 11 on Wednesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 daily dashboard.
There is no way to know if those 122 cases are inmates at Pamunkey jail or from completely separate persons in the county or a mix of both. Because of the difference in daily cases between Wednesday and Thursday it seems likely that some are inmates.
Inmates who are at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications and meet the eligibility criteria – good time release date, medical conditions, and offense history – will only be released if the necessary community support and resources are available, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections COVID-19 response inmate early release plan.
The Pamunkey jail activated its COVID response protocol back in March at the beginning of the pandemic in the United States, which includes a designated isolation area for new prisoners, a screening tool and temperature checks for every person before entering the facility, personal protective equipment for both inmates and staff as well as enhanced cleaning within the building, Willett said.
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