W.Va. Corrections Finds 3 More Prisoners With COVID-19 Through State-Wide Jail, Prison Testing

Jun 5, 2020

Three more prisoners and one employee for the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation have tested positive for the coronavirus, as state officials continue collecting results from all incarcerated people in West Virginia.

At a virtual press briefing Friday, Gov. Jim Justice said the DCR had completed testing at least 15 facilities, collecting results from nearly 3,300 incarcerated people and more than 1,700 employees. The state was waiting on results from nearly 3,150 tests, as of Friday afternoon. 

Data that same day around 3 p.m. showed there was still a lot more testing to complete at five jails, four prisons, and six out of 10 juvenile detention centers. Among 220 minors at DCR facilities, only about 90 tests had been conducted by Friday. 

According to Justice, of the about 550 tests that have come back, the DCR reported two positive prisoners in the Eastern Panhandle — at the Eastern Regional Jail and the Martinsburg Correctional Center — and one positive prisoner at the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail in Hampshire County. 

“This testing enables us to just do exactly what we ought to be doing,” Justice said. “We're right on top of it. We're protecting these people in every way, and absolutely, we're able to shut it down before it just eats us alive.”

All of the three new prisoners who tested positive were not showing symptoms of COVID-19, according to the DCR, and are being isolated from other prisoners, according to guidelines from the federal government.

Anyone showing symptoms for the virus is treated by on-site medical staff, according to comments from DCR Commissioner Betsy Jividen during the Friday briefing. Prisoners from the same living quarters as those who have tested positive also are automatically quarantined. 

Of the about 400 tests that have returned from employees, one worker tested positive and is recovering home. As for prisoners, most are quarantined according to each facility’s ability. 

“The enhanced testing —  and we're catching the asymptomatic cases —  that's given us a whole new tool as far as separating inmates who are positive, from those who have not yet been tested, and from those who are negative,” Jividen said Friday.

The expanded testing comes after an outbreak at the Huttonsville Correctional Center, in Randolph County. As of Friday afternoon, there were 28 individuals at Huttonsville with the coronavirus and a little more than 90 recovered cases. 

All correctional facilities statewide are set to be tested by June 12