HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico County officials say the coronavirus is spreading through their jail population, leading them to offer testing to all inmates and staff.
Sheriff Alisa Gregory said the county jail is committed to protecting the health of all inmates, staff and contractors. The county is taking lessons from what they learned during the outbreak at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center just a few months ago.
Widespread COVID-19 testing is happening at Henrico County jails after the county learned the virus is spreading in facilities. It started on July 5 when three new inmates at Henrico County’s Jail West tested positive after showing mild symptoms.
A few days later, 43 inmates were confirmed positive. Officials then offered testing to all inmates at Jail West and Jail East.
County Manager John Vithoulkas said they learned from the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak at Canterbury Rehabilitation Center, which took dozens of lives.
“The reality is, we needed to test everyone back then,” he said. “Now, we know that we should be testing everyone here and that is the first thing that we did.”
As of Wednesday, more than 600 inmates have been tested and 125 were positive for the virus, most being asymptomatic, according to the jail. Gregory said nearly 400 inmates refused to be tested.
Vithoulkas said since becoming sheriff in January, Gregory has worked to decrease the jail population, which he credits for helping space out the inmates.
“We would not be able to do some of the things that the sheriff is doing to isolate,” Vithoulkas said.
Inmates who tested positive, negative and who refused tests are in separate areas of the jails, according to Gregory.
“Everybody is still quarantined,” Gregory said.
The jail is still waiting on 25 pending test results and will continue to test inmates in the coming weeks. In addition to the offenders, 270 staff members were tested and six came back positive.