HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Pamunkey Regional Jail announced Wednesday that 124 of 178 inmates who have been tested for COVID-19 so far, have tested positive for the virus.
The jail said it first became informed of two positive staff member results on Aug. 20. They said both employees were immediately instructed to self-isolate. There was then a third case reported by a jail contractor on Aug. 28, and a fourth employee tested positive on Aug. 31.
The first confirmed inmate case of the virus came on Sept. 3. That inmate had already been isolated with cold like symptons for over a week.
On Sept. 4 and 5, the health department tested all staff, as well as 178 inmates who were staying in certain areas of the facility. The jail’s total population is 380 inmates. “What we found is the positive cases were in certain pods, and so we focused on those pods,” said Dr. Tom Franck, director of the Chickahominy Health District.
On Monday, Sept. 8, officials learned 124 of the 178 inmates who were tested, came back positive for the coronavirus. 20 of 129 staff members tested positive for the virus. The jail said 12 inmate and 3 staff tests are still pending, and one employee will be re-tested because of an inconclusive test result.
After the positive test results were received, those inmates were isolated from the general jail population. “We were able to get those folks isolated together. Not together in one housing unit, but in cells as much as possible,” said Jail Superintendent Col. James Willett.
The jail said it will now test all 380 inmates in the facility.
Pamunkey said it took precautions like issuing PPE to inmates and staff, training on hand-washing and social distancing, and canceling non-essential visits.
“It’s virtually impossible to stop outbreaks from occurring within facilities of these types. When you have a congregated setting like this and you’ve got people sharing bathrooms and sharing space together, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to get outbreaks,” said Dr. Franck.
Willett said Pamunkey does not notify family members of positive test results because it involves inmates’ personal health information, so they leave it up to the inmates to disclose it to their family members if they wish. Visitation has not been allowed since February because of COVID-19, but the jail does have virtual visitation.
According to the jail, a majority of the people who tested positive were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. As of Wednesday, there have been no hospitalizations or deaths.
Affected employees have been placed on emergency paid leave and all offenders will receive 24/7 care from medical staff.
Jail Deputy Superintendent Nathan Webel told 8News all employees were issued N95 masks and are required to wear them at all times. All inmates must wear their mask any time they leave their bunk as well.