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ACRJ experiencing outbreak as local COVID cases surge

The Albemarle-County Regional Jail is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak as cases surge across the region and nation.

According to a release from Superintendent Martin Kumer, there are currently 65 active cases among the incarcerated population and 10 cases among staff. The inmates are quarantined from non-positive individuals and staff is quarantined at home, according to the release.

All positive individuals are asymptomatic or experiencing mild flu or cold-like symptoms, Kumer wrote, and there have been no hospitalizations required during the outbreak.

Approximately 64% of the jail staff is fully vaccinated, which is slightly below the 65.7% rate throughout the Blue Ridge Health District.

“An outbreak this size is not unexpected given the community positivity rate of over 35%,” Kumer wrote. “In addition, the omicron variant can spread very aggressively even from those who are vaccinated and or asymptomatic, especially in congregant settings.”

Additionally, Kumer said 11 individuals who were positive at the start of the recent outbreak are no longer considered positive, indicating that the jail is starting to see individuals clear.

“Our infection rate typically follows those within the community,” Kumer wrote. “We expect our rates to begin to decline as those in the community decline.”

In response to the outbreak, Kumer said the jail has taken various precautions, including asking the court to delay by 30 days start dates for people scheduled to report to the jail; working to release inmates with comorbidity issues on home electronic monitoring; testing and monitoring staff; encouraging vaccinations and boosters amongst inmates and staff; and limiting inmate movement when possible.

“I want to reassure the public that this facility, our staff and this community have been operating and living through this pandemic for almost two years,” Kumer wrote. “We will continue to employ best practices, coordinate our efforts with the Blue Ridge Health District and follow [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines, protect our most vulnerable, do the best we can to limit exposure to the COVID virus and take care of those who contract the virus.”

The jail’s population has shrunk in recent years, due in part to a combination of community efforts, changes in criminal prosecutions and an increased use of home electronic incarceration amid the pandemic.

Due to these efforts, current plans to renovate the jail do not include plans to increase the jail’s capacity because, according to studies conducted by a firm handling renovations, there is no expectation that the number of inmates housed will increase in the coming years.

According to Kumer, the number of people incarcerated inside of the facility is 265, the lowest in 25 years.

Some community members, including those associated with the group Charlottesville Beyond Policing, have called for additional responses to the outbreak, including providing prompt medical attention for anyone in the jail and providing hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and medical-grade masks for everyone in the jail.

“Those on the inside are saying ‘everybody has it’ and are fearing for their safety and well-being,” the group said on Twitter. “They are seeking assistance from the community to amplify their voices.”

This is the second outbreak at the jail since September and represents a significant increase from the previous total, likely due to the widespread proliferation of the omicron variant.

Per health district data, in January the district experienced five new deaths, 130 new hospitalizations and 6,365 new cases related to COVID-19. The previous high set last January was around 3,000 active cases.


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