ORANGE — After months of mostly negative test results, COVID-19 has hit the Central Virginia Regional Jail.
“It seems our luck has run out,” CVRJ Superintendent Frank Dyer said.
As of early September, there had only been 12 positive COVID-19 cases at the jail, far fewer than in similar facilities in surrounding areas. Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper has had 674 cases of the virus since it first emerged in March, with nearly half of those occurring in November and December.
But after an encouraging start to the pandemic, numbers at CVRJ have spiked. According to Dyer, the first positive test of the most recent incident occurred Dec. 28, which led to testing 48 more inmates in the same housing area. Of those, 33 tested positive. Those with symptoms or positive tests are moved to a quarantine housing area. Inmates are not charged for COVID assessments or any COVID related treatment.
Inmates in quarantine with required court appearances are appearing via a video conferencing system when possible. They are transported separately from well inmates when an in-person court appearance is necessary. In addition, 11 jail staff are out with the illness. Staff members must test negative in order to return to work.
Dyer said there have been no hospitalizations and the virus seems to be contained between the quarantine area and the housing block in which the symptoms first occurred.
Since March, 246 inmates have been tested for COVID-19, along with 91 staff members. The jail received CARES Act funding for COVID related expenses from Orange and Louisa counties. Approximately $42,000 of the $80,000 allocation was used to purchase testing kits. The cost includes the lab processing the results. Some of the funds were also used for masks. The jail provided a mask for every inmate. Inmates are encouraged to wear the issued mask, but aren’t required to, as enforcement is an issue. Staff are required to wear masks in inmate housing.
Dyer said some jail staff members have been vaccinated against the virus. Staff for the most part have declined the vaccine. There is currently no known schedule for when inmates will receive the vaccine. Those living in correctional facilities are included in the state’s 1b phase of vaccination, which has begun throughout the state. However, with vaccine shortages, health districts are still working out the logistics of administering the shot.