Majority of inmates are asymptomatic

Published 6:00 am Friday, May 8, 2020

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As the number of Dillwyn Correctional Center (DCC) employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus increases, Buckingham County Emergency Management Coordinator Cody Davis said he believes the prisons will be able to keep the outbreak contained and out of the general population of the county.

Cody Davis

Virus cases in the county reported by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) are still lagging at 171 positive cases as of Tuesday, May 5. VDH was experiencing technical difficulties and could not update the website’s numbers Wednesday, May 6.

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), however, reported Wednesday a total of 203 offenders at DCC have tested positive for the coronavirus. The number of positive staff at the prison increased from four cases reported Tuesday to seven on Wednesday, sparking concern that workers testing positive may bring the virus back home to their families and neighbors.

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Additionally, cases at the Buckingham Correctional Center (BCC) increased to 13 positive offenders and two positive staff, with four inmates hospitalized as a result of the virus.

Davis said Wednesday there is some concern in the community that the prison virus outbreaks could seep out of the correctional facilities and into the public, as DCC and BCC serve as some of the largest employers in the county.

He added, however, there is confidence in VDOC’s containment and mitigation efforts that leads county officials to believe the prisons will be able to keep a prison-to-public spread from occurring.

“County administration and wardens from both VDOC facilities are now in regular communication, which allows us to maintain effective situational awareness and readiness,” Davis said.

He said residents should note VDOC’s large number of cases can be attributed to the large number of tests performed, and that almost all of the prisons’ positive cases are asymptomatic.

“Increased testing is directly related to increased positives. The positives are everywhere and most do not realize it, because they remain asymptomatic and do not get tested. The fact that VDOC is administering a large number of tests indicates nothing more than the fact that they are committed to being proactive and maintaining a strong understanding of what they are being faced with.

“As VDOC continues to test in large numbers, Buckingham County’s case count will continue to grow. This does not mean that we have large numbers of severely ill people. It just means that we have gained knowledge of something that often goes unknown (a positive person).”

Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said Wednesday the state is performing point prevalence testing in prisons, including DCC and BCC, which helps spot those asymptomatic cases before symptoms possibly develop.

“We need to early detect those who have the virus,” Moran said. “So we’ve done Deerfield last week. Today we are doing Buckingham, with the help of the (National) Guard, and Dillwyn at the end of the week. We are going to test everyone because we know this virus can be spread while someone is asymptomatic.

“Early on in this, we were testing symptomatic inmates and correctional officers. …Only through early detection will it enable Department of Corrections personnel to enforce and take the measures with respect to quarantine and isolation that are necessary to ensure the safety and health of those we have in custody in addition to the safety and health of our correctional officers.”