HURRICANE (ABC4 News) — 59 inmates are currently positive with COVID-19 at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County.
According to Chief Deputy Jake Schultz with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the current infection rate is 19% with approximately 308 inmates in the facility. An additional 59 inmates have been potentially exposed to the virus.
“We’re working around the clock to help manage the outbreak, and a correctional facility is a difficult environment to manage in a pandemic,” Schultz said. “We’ve isolated any known positives that we’ve had and tested almost the entire facility at this point, and medical staff are monitoring our positive inmates and providing them treatment.”
Two quarantined housing units are holding positive inmates, according to authorities. Five housing units contain potentially exposed inmates who have tested negative but will remain quarantined for an additional two weeks before being re-tested as a precautionary measure.
Correctional staff plan to test an additional two housing units on Tuesday that contain an estimated 50 inmates.
The outbreak began on June 20 in the F block of the facility, and two inmates who had been moved out of the F block into the K block tested positive, causing further spread. The first two blocks make up about half of the total positive cases, according to the sheriff’s office.
Less than 10 of the positive inmates showed symptoms, Schultz tells ABC4 News. The positive cases include two inmates working on the kitchen staff who were asymptomatic.
Staff are now providing masks to all inmates booked into the jail but estimated that only about one-third of inmates are wearing them. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said masks are encouraged but not required in housing units.
“It’s only mandatory when they wear them when they come out of the housing unit or when they interact directly with staff,” Schultz said.
He added, “When they’re on their bunks, it’s much harder to enforce and much less reasonable, but when they’re out in the dayroom at the tables in the more common areas, we’re discussing whether or not to make that mandatory,” Schultz said.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office tell ABC4 News inmates are not able to maintain six feet of social distance from the bunk next to them, but authorities have restricted admissions into the jail by moving to more book and release procedures over the last few months to help facilitate flexibility.
“We don’t have to assign an inmate to every bunk. We can assign an inmate to every other bunk to facilitate that,” Schultz said. “We would typically have around 450 to 475 inmates this time of year.”