The positive COVID-19 case count at Huttonsville Correctional Center was upped to 83 Wednesday morning and Gov. Jim Justice said he wants testing done at all jails and prisons as soon as possible.
“We should test every single inmate and every single staff person at all of our facilities,” he said, and as quickly as possible as testing capabilities allow. The likelihood is strong that there are asymptomatic people in other facilities who could spread the virus.
Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner Betsy Jividen said all positives have been moved and separated. They are awaiting results of contact tracing.
They put measures in place back on March 3, she said, including screenings and 14-day quarantines for incoming jail inmates. They’ve curtailed visitation and movement between facilities. All inmates and staff have had masks since early April.
“We have been working and we have put into place a number of preventative and precautionary measures.”
As courts have reopened, Jividen said, jail numbers are ticking up, posing new challenges. They are developing protocols for surveillance and more testing. The prisons have extra bed space to accommodate changing conditions there.
Jividen fieleded a question regarding an unnamed corrections officer at Huttonsville who said not all staff have masks and the mas rules aren’t enforced for inmates.
She said all inmates were issued two masks so they have one while the other is being cleaned. Some who stay in certain areas with the same people may be choosing not to wear them. She said she couldn’t say any more without specific information but she has faith in the superintendent.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh pointed out that three congregate areas – nursing homes, jails and prisons, food processing plants – have high risk for spread and high positive rates.
Backing up his statement is a nonprofit journalism project focused on corrections, The Marshall Project. It reports that to date, in state and federal prisons, there have been 29,251 positive cases and 415 deaths. That includes 7,400 prison staff, with 33 staff deaths.
Asked how soon statewide facility testing should begin, Marsh said the outbreak at Huttonsville demonstrates the need to move rapidly.
He didn’t specify a day, but said as it should begin as soon as they identify they have the capacity to do so, “which should be very soon. … I would say we need to do that very,very quickly.” Ad they’re working on it.
On other topics, Justice and Adjutant General James Hoyer highlighted a variety of West Virginia-led innovations for dealing with COVID-19.They include an automated bag ventilator system, 3D-printed testing swabs, reusable medical gowns, 3D-printed N-95 masks, and portable aerosolized hydrogen peroxide disinfectant systems.
Week 5 of The Comeback is underway and Week 6 is set to start on June 5, when casinos and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen.
The Dominion Post asked a question about safety and virus spread at the casinos, pointing out that they attract out-of-state customers, often elderly; and the gamblers often spend hours smoking and drinking, so mask-wearing is unlikely.
The posted casino guidance says customers will have their temperatures taken and answer screeing questions before entry.
Justice said, “Sure we’re concerned. We’re going to stay concerned.” They will keep watching as The Comeback moves forward. They will encourage everyone to wear masks and practice all the other measures and encourage the casinos to protect their patrons.
Continuing on that theme a little later, he said as he regularly does, “The game’s not over. … I’m worried to death, nonstop.” Wear your mask. “Absolutely use your brain. Absolutely protect yourself.”
Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp