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161 cases of COVID-19 at Buckingham County prisons

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) is reporting 161 cases of COVID-19 stemming from correctional centers in Buckingham County, with more than 16% of inmates at the Dillwyn Correctional Center testing positive.

Cody Davis

As of Thursday, April 30, VDOC’s coronavirus update webpage listed a staggering 146 offenders and five staff members as having tested positive for COVID-19 at the Dillwyn Correctional Center, making the county the source of the largest reported outbreak of any correctional facility in Virginia.

The Buckingham Correctional Center was listed as having eight positive offenders and two positive staff members.

Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported only 37 offenders and five staff members from the Dillwyn Correctional Center had tested positive for the virus. Tuesday’s count also showed Buckingham Correctional Center as having seven offenders and two staff members who had tested positive.

Thursday, the VDH website listed Buckingham County as having 55 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, as of press time, but that number is expected to balloon once the new correctional facility outbreak numbers are taken into account.

Buckingham County Emergency Management Coordinator Cody Davis said earlier this week the discrepancy in numbers reported between VDOC and VDH may be a result of the two websites being updated at separate times.

Rebecca S. Carter

Davis said the Dillwyn Correctional Center made the county aware of its first positive COVID-19 test in the middle of last week, with Buckingham Correctional Center’s first positive coming only a day or so later. County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter said Wednesday that the county already had 27 confirmed cases in its general population before the first outbreak at either correctional center.

“Unfortunately Dillwyn’s numbers have significantly increased, thereby impacting the county’s overall numbers,” Dillwyn Correctional Center Warden Dana Ratliffe-Walker said. “The initial positives were in the same housing unit and have now exposed the unit to the virus. We have tested others in the unit and will possibly have other cases identified.”

Gregory Carter, deputy director of communications for VDOC, said Wednesday all of the state’s correctional facilities are operating under a modified lockdown to minimize contact between groups of offenders.

He added VDOC is restricting movement of staff between housing units and utilizing partnerships between VDOC, VDH and area hospitals to greatly increase the testing of offenders, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, with point prevalence testing at facilities like Dillwyn Correctional Center.

Gregory added all employees of the facilities must assess their risk on a daily basis prior to reporting to work and that all persons entering any VADOC facility are screened using infrared/temporal artery thermometers.

“The VADOC’s extensive Medical Epidemic/Pandemic Sanitation Plan is in place to make certain that all department facilities ensure accurate sanitation during this pandemic while utilizing appropriate chemicals and approved personal protective equipment (PPE),” he said.

“Sneeze/cough guard masks made by VCE (Virginia Correctional Enterprises) have been provided to each staff member. Staff members are required to wear their VCE masks unless wearing another form of PPE mask.  Staff wear PPE in situations where PPE is required.”

Dillwyn Correctional Center has an offender population of 910, with 355 staff members. Buckingham Correctional Center currently has 1127 offenders and 354 staff.

In Marion, Ohio, more than 80% of the Marion Correctional Institution’s prison population of 2,500 has tested positive for the coronavirus, sparking concerns as the correctional facility’s outbreak disperses into the surrounding community.

Davis said county officials in Buckingham have established daily communication with the local prisons, which employ a large amount of county residents. He also said the correctional facility outbreaks could potentially put further stress on Buckingham’s EMS system.

“We want to be prepared for the fact that this may increase the public health danger in our county.”

VDH is reporting 14,961 virus cases in the commonwealth and 522 virus-related deaths.

Cumberland County has 11 confirmed cases of the virus, and Prince Edward County has 46 confirmed cases.

Updated statistics from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association show there are currently 1,566 hospitalized with confirmed cases of coronavirus or tests that are pending. Of those patients, 387 patients are in the ICU. The state currently has 222 of its 2,997 ventilators in use for these patients. The stats show that 2042 patients who have been diagnosed with the virus have gotten better and been discharged from the hospital so far.