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No let-up as virus surges; outbreak hits regional jail

SoVaNow.com / January 06, 2021


COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in Mecklenburg County with 110 new cases reported by the Virginia Department of Health over the seven-day period from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5. That figure includes a spike of 40 cases on Tuesday, bringing the county’s total caseload since the pandemic began to 1,374.

VDH reports that 39 county residents have died from the disease, with the most recent fatality reported Tuesday. In all, 67 county patients have required hospitalization since the spring.

At the same time Mecklenburg County struggles with accelerating community spread of the dangerous pathogen, an outbreak has developed at the nearby Meherrin River Regional Jail in Alberta, which houses jail inmates from Mecklenburg.

On Tuesday, 18 positive cases were reported at the facility, representing a mix of staff and offenders.

The outbreak first showed up on the VDH’s online COVID-19 dashboard Monday.

The regional jail authority, which can house 697 offenders in Alberta and another 80 at its satellite location in Boydton, had escaped the impact of the virus prior to now.

Mecklenburg County Administrator Wayne Carter said the outbreak at the Alberta jail has prompted discussions of how inmates and staff at the Boydton satellite facility can be protected from the virus. Steps could include lockdowns of cell blocks and closure of the satellite jail.

“We are looking at any and all steps available to protect the health and safety of our workers and offenders and that will keep the spread of the virus at bay,” Carter said.

Of the 676 coronavirus cases confirmed in Brunswick County since the start of the pandemic, 116 are tied to outbreaks at two correctional facilities — 98 at Lawrenceville Correctional Center, operated by the state, and now the 18 cases at Meherrin River Regional Jail. The regional jail authority is led by Brunswick and Mecklenburg.

One of the largest prison outbreaks in Virginia occurred at Baskerville Correctional Center, but according to information posted online by the Virginia Department of Corrections, that outbreak appears to have quieted. VADOC reports that 249 offenders at the prison have tested positive for COVID-19, a figure that has not changed significantly in recent weeks.

Four employees at the Baskerville prison have contracted the virus since the pandemic began.

One BCC employee, prison warden Earl Barksdale, died.

The Southside Health District, which spans Brunswick, Mecklenburg and Halifax counties, has seen 3,292 incidences of COVID-19 since March, with 84 total deaths. As in Mecklenburg County, Halifax County has seen rapid spread in the past week, with 131 new cases reported by VDH. Halifax set a single-day caseload record on Tuesday, with 64 newly reported infections.



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