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ACRJ superintendent: COVID-19 outbreak on decline

A COVID-19 outbreak at ACRJ is under control and lessening, according to an update given Thursday to members of the jail’s Authority Board.

The outbreak was first reported on Oct. 8 via a news release from the jail, detailing the number of people infected and precautions the jail was taking.

According to the release, the first case was reported on Sept. 22 and soon spread to three other incarcerated individuals.

All 295 inmates and 122 staff members were tested on Sept. 28, and two additional inmates tested positive.

A second round of testing for exposed individuals was conducted on the morning of Oct. 8, and 12 more inmates tested positive, the release said. All together 16 inmates and four staff members tested positive.

During Thursday’s meeting of the ACRJ Authority Board, Martin Kumer, the jail’s superintendent, said the outbreak was on the downturn and that no one had been hospitalized.

“We locked down the whole facility and we notified the courts to use video appearances as opposed to transporting these guys to court, which was very successful,” Kumer said. “We kept it contained and the medical staff here did a phenomenal job, our classification staff did a fantastic job, our security staff — everyone really came together and just really tighten up this outbreak to keep it from getting bigger.”

As of Thursday, Kumer said four inmates were still considered contagious per CDC guidelines. Those individuals had been quarantined and were doing well, he said.

Following Kumer’s report, Board Member Jay James asked Kumer about vaccination efforts at the jail, specifically whether inmates were being offered the opportunity to be educated.

“Are there educational opportunities for inmates and staff to learn more about that opportunity, just for their safety?” James asked. “Obviously it’s their personal choice, I just know that’s a stress point for you and your staff.”

In an effort to make it as easy as possible for inmates and staff, Kumer said vaccinations are offered at ACRJ and every inmate is offered the vaccine multiple times. Additionally, inmates are offered incentive packs with various food items, and staff members have been offered a $150 bonus, both of which have seen success, Kumer said.

“When it comes down to the end of the day, it is a personal choice, and some people have chosen to not become vaccinated, inmates and staff alike, but we still keep pushing,” he said.

Also discussed during Thursday’s meeting was the budget for FY 2021, which according to Kumer came in largely under budget but is still subject to an ongoing audit set to be presented in January.

Compensation of wages, operating expenses and health operating services all came in under budget, Kumer said, due largely to staffing issues at the jail and a decrease in jail population due to community efforts and an increased use of home electronic incarceration.

Water and sewer, electric, capital expenses are expected to come in over budget due to an increase in the need for clothes washing and the replacement of a water heater at the jail.

“Now of course this is unaudited and there are a few more outstanding revenues that may be added to that we’re going to talk to the auditors about, but in the worst case scenario we believe we’re looking at $482,478 over budget,” Kumer said.

Kumer said he plans to recommend using this surplus to reimburse Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle and Nelson for hazardous duty pay they gave over the fiscal year. Other parts of the surplus are planned to be used to fund a database corrections plan from Moseley Architects, a group helping to design a potential renovation for the jail.

With the remaining surplus, Kumer asked the Board to approve a $3,000 bonus for each non-sworn staff member who was not included in the Compensation Board’s budget for the $3,000 hazardous duty pay earlier in the year. Kumer estimated that would be $96,000 to pay for approximately 30 staff members and that the approximately $73,000 remaining balance to be transferred to the Capital Fund.

After a bit of back and forth with the Board about the logistics, the bonuses were approved via a unanimous vote.

The ACRJ Authority Board will meet again on Nov. 11.


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