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Coronavirus cases in Buckingham prisons soar by 108

Coronavirus cases in both of Buckingham’s prisons saw a significant increase over the weekend, briefly making Buckingham County the leader in COVID-19 cases, relative to its population, of any county in Virginia.

The county had already seen a jump in cases Friday, May 15, when the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported Buckingham’s case numbers rising to 366.

By Saturday, that figure leapt to 411 cases after The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) reported 75 new cases stemming from Dillwyn Correctional Center (DCC), bringing the number of total coronavirus-positive inmates at DCC to 280, along with 11 positive corrections staff workers.

By Monday morning, the nearby Buckingham Correctional Center (BKCC) reported its number of positive offenders had risen to 112 compared to the 79 inmates listed in Saturday’s update. Five staff members at BKCC have contracted COVID-19.

Despite the 108 new cases stemming from county prisons over the weekend, Buckingham’s VDH-reported case count was 417 as of Monday morning’s update. As a 24- to 48-hour lag time in numbers reported between VADOC and VDH is expected, it is anticipated the county’s numbers will continue to surge in the coming days.

By Monday, Buckingham County was back in the position of second-most cases relative to its population of any Virginia county, second only to Richmond County.

Although it is clear Buckingham’s large percentage of case numbers for its population is mainly due to the prison outbreaks, there is concern that infected staff may be bringing the virus out of the jail and into the county’s general population.

The prisons are some of the county’s biggest employers. Residents from nearby counties, including Cumberland and Prince Edward, also work at the facilities.

According to VADOC, DCC employs 355 individuals, and BCC employs 374.

Cumberland County experienced its own jump in cases over the weekend, going from 18 cases Friday to 23 as of Monday. Cumberland’s cases steadily increased throughout last week.

Prince Edward County coronavirus cases rose to 77 Monday. Superintendent of Piedmont Regional Jail (PRJ) in Prince Edward County Jim Davis said the jail had experienced 19 total coronavirus cases since April, with 11 total positive inmates and eight positive staff. As of Monday one inmate from the jail had been hospitalized with zero new cases or inmates pending test results since May 11. One staff member was awaiting their test results Monday.

Lunenburg cases were at 7, and Charlotte County was listed as having experienced 14 total cases as of Monday.

(Herald reporter Titus Mohler contributed to this story.)