West Virginia testing for coronavirus in prisons, jails

CHARLESTON — Testing for the coronavirus in West Virginia jails, prisons and juvenile facilities since the outbreak at the Huttonsville Correctional Facility in Randolph County started Tuesday.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday that testing started after an outbreak at Huttonsville at the end of May.

“We are on the move to testing all of our correctional facilities,” Justice said. “That’s at additional facilities beyond Huttonsville. It began yesterday morning at five facilities in the Northern and Eastern Panhandles, three regional jails, and two juvenile centers.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, 621 inmates have been tested as of Tuesday evening in regional jails, 1,478 inmates in the state prison system, two inmates in the community corrections system and 23 inmates in the juvenile services system. Five hundred correctional employees also were tested.

Most of the testing that’s taken place since Tuesday evening has occurred at the Eastern Regional Jail in Berkeley County, the Northern Regional Jail in Marshall County and the Western Regional Jail in Cabell County. So far, no tests have come back positive for COVID-19 in those facilities.

Huttonsville is the only facility out of the state’s 11 prisons to have positive cases. The number of active cases at Huttonsville as of Tuesday evening was 98 with 21 inmates already recovered from the virus. Gov. Jim Justice ordered the testing of all 1,093 inmates and residents at Huttonsville on May 20 after several inmates on a cell block contracted the virus.

Other large-scale virus testing is under way at the Northern Correctional Facility in Marshall County, where 243 inmates have been tested. The results for 242 inmates at Northern remain pending, though one inmate has tested negative. The Martinsburg Correctional Center in Berkeley County has tested 96 inmates with one inmate testing negative so far.

The only testing that has occurred in the state’s juvenile services took place at the Vicki Douglas Juvenile Center in Berkeley County with 18 juveniles tested with no results back yet. Three juveniles were tested at the Gene Spadaro Juvenile Center in Fayette County and two juveniles at the Ronald Mulholland Juvenile Center in Ohio County. Test results for both of those facilities are still pending.

Justice said that testing at panhandle facilities should be done by the end of Wednesday. The goal is to complete testing in all correctional facilities by Friday.

“We want all of these people to recover, our employees to be back at work and our inmates to be in good health,” Justice said. “Everyone is monitoring it, and I salute all of the people from the local health departments to everyone who has participated in making this what we hope and pray will be good news.”

The inmate population as of the end of May was 9,964, though that number fluctuates as people enter and leave the corrections system. As of Tuesday, 220 correctional staff and contract staff have been tested, with one staff member testing positive. Eight staff members — including seven at Huttonsville — who previously tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered.

“One of the seven is back at work,” Justice said. “Everything thus far from the Huttonsville spike that we go in such a dramatic way and everything is moving in the direction we want it to move.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.


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