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Prison Coronavirus Cases Climb In Florida

Prisoners crowding around a table
Florida Department of Corrections
Florida Department of Corrections officials on Monday said 119 inmates and 84 corrections workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Florida Department of Corrections officials on Monday said 119 inmates and 84 corrections workers have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The highly contagious virus, which has caused four inmate deaths, has spread quickly within Florida’s prison system, which has roughly 94,000 inmates, 23,000 workers and 145 facilities.

COVID-19 has been detected in 56 prisons and four probation offices across the state as of Monday, corrections officials said.

The majority of inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 are in three prisons: Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton, Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach and Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell.

As of Monday, 48 inmates at the Daytona Beach facility tested positive for COVID-19, a jump from seven cases reported by corrections officials on Friday.

The number of cases at Sumter Correctional Institution increased from three on Friday to 27 on Monday, corrections officials said.

Florida Department of Corrections officials are prioritizing the distribution of cloth face masks to corrections workers and inmates at the Sumter and Tomoka correctional facilities, according to a statement issued by the agency on Sunday.

After a dramatic increase in cases at Tomoka over the weekend, about 60 asymptomatic inmates have been transferred to Columbia Correctional Institution, where a single corrections worker has tested positive for the virus, officials said. As the coronavirus spreads within Florida’s prison system, 4,424 inmates throughout the state were placed in medical isolation or medical quarantine after being exposed to the highly contagious virus.

The vast majority of the inmates who had been exposed --- 4,325 cases --- were in medical quarantine, a practice used to separate people who came into close contact with others who tested positive for the virus or who were symptomatic, corrections officials said.

As of Monday, 378 Florida prisoners have been tested for the virus, with 26 percent of test results pending, according to the corrections agency.

The number of tests that have been performed encompass approximately 0.4 percent of the state’s 94,000 inmates.

Officials said 84 workers have tested positive for the virus, but have not disclosed the number of employees who have undergone testing.