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Roanoke jail sees a dozen cases of COVID-19 among staff in past 2 weeks

Roanoke jail sees a dozen cases of COVID-19 among staff in past 2 weeks


A series of recently diagnosed cases has made Roanoke City Jail one of the harder-struck facilities among its neighboring jails since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city jail has seen 12 employees test positive for the virus over the past two weeks, according to an initial announcement made Tuesday and additional information provided Thursday in response to follow-up questions.

A spokeswoman said the cases were identified through internal screening procedures. The facility said it’s been unable to determine if the cases are connected to one another.

No inmates have tested positive for the virus, officials said. The sheriff’s office said it’s working with the health department and has multiple safety measures in place.

Jails in Roanoke County-Salem, Botetourt County and Montgomery County reported no COVID-19 cases among either inmates or personnel to date.

The New River Valley Regional Jail said it has seen three employees and nine inmates test positive over the past three months.

The inmates were all new to the facility and were asymptomatic, said Superintendent Greg Winston. They were routinely quarantined and tested upon arrival in keeping with the facility’s COVID-19 precautions.

No new inmate is put into a housing unit unless they test negative, Winston said.

The employee cases were each traced to exposures outside the jail. Those who had close contact with someone diagnosed, as determined by the health department, were also quarantined and tested.

The additional tests came back negative, Winston said. To date, there is no sign of internal spread of the virus within the facility.

“Knock on wood,” he said, adding that the jail has strict protocols in place and knows it must remain vigilant to keep people safe.

The Western Virginia Regional Jail reported it has had one case of the virus. An employee tested positive this month shortly after returning from vacation.

The jail worked with the health department to pinpoint who had close contact with that person and should be quarantined and tested, said Superintendent Bobby Russell.

Those additional tests all returned negative, he said. The employee, who’s recuperating now, will have to pass two follow-up tests with a clean bill of health before he’ll be allowed to return to work.

No inmate has tested positive, Russell said. Like New River, Western Virginia Regional Jail is quarantining and testing all new admissions to its facility.

Local jails described detailed COVID-19 precautions that included screenings, mask requirements and intensified cleaning.

“Obviously, we’re in heightened awareness at all times,” Russell said.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said it had one employee, who didn’t work in the jail, test positive last month after returning from an out-of-town trip.

That office, as part of its response, decided to arrange widespread testing for all employees who wanted it. Those results came back negative, said a spokeswoman.

No member of the public had close contact with the employee, she added, and there have been no COVID-19 cases in the county jail.

In Roanoke, the sheriff’s office said the jail’s 12 cases were found through the daily screening measures required for employees and all others who enter the facility.

The cases represent about 5.8% of the Roanoke Sheriff’s Office’s total staff of 207 people. Other employees who could have been exposed were quarantined and sent for testing in consultation with the health department, officials said.

Spokeswoman Kristen Borak said 10 city inmates have been tested to date and all returned negative. It wasn’t immediately clear if those tests were done in response to the employee cases or if they were unrelated.

The jail said it tests inmates based on symptoms or exposure in line with CDC guidelines. New inmates are quarantined for 14 days before being added to a housing unit.

Decontamination cleaning was done in relevant areas after the recent diagnoses, officials said, and enhanced cleaning is done daily.

Statewide, total cases of COVID-19 rose to 88,904 Thursday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. That was an increase of 911 from the 87,993 reported Wednesday.

The case numbers included 85,546 confirmed cases and 3,358 probable cases. There are 2,141 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 2,035 confirmed and 106 probable. That’s an increase of 16 from the 2,125 reported Wednesday.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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  • Updated

Inmates housed at the Roanoke City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time since the pandemic began. Four inmates who began showing symptoms more than two weeks ago, and were quarantined at that time, tested positive. They remain in quarantine.

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