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Westmoreland officials fear growing jail population could lead to virus outbreak

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Westmoreland officials fear growing jail population could lead to virus outbreak

Westmoreland County Prison Westmoreland County Prison officials said Monday they are preparing for the worst as the lockup’s inmate population continues to rise and, with it, the risk for additional coronavirus cases at the jail.

Warden John Walton said nearly 160 new inmates have been booked into the county jail during the last two weeks, straining the effort to properly screen for the virus and limit staff and inmate exposure to the illness.

“It seems they’ve dropped the bomb on us and now everyone is coming in,” Walton told members of the county’s prison board Monday.

County officials last week reported two inmates who entered the jail earlier this month tested positive for the coronavirus. In both cases, those inmates were quarantined when they entered the facility.

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At the onset of the pandemic in March, the county closed the prison to outside visitors and saw the numbers of newly booked inmates decrease amid state’s stay-at-home orders and reduced local police activity.

But, when restrictions were lifted in early June, the jail’s inmate population started to rise and, now, the opportunity to continue quarantining is quickly evaporating, Walton said.

The jail set aside 48 cells to keep new inmates isolated and away from staff and the facility’s general population for two weeks. Earlier in July, the county started to test quarantined inmates for the coronavirus after seven days in order to reduce the isolation period for those inmates who have no symptoms and are thought to be virus-free.Walton said 21 inmates were tested for coronavirus Thursday.Still, the growing population in the jail means quarantining may soon have to be halted. As of Monday morning, all but […]

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