COVID-19 continues to spread in Florida's prisons


  • Photo via Florida Department of Corrections
Six out of 10 inmates tested for COVID-19 at Sumter Correctional Institution and Tomoka Correctional Institution have tested positive for the highly contagious disease, Florida Department of Corrections officials said in a press release Friday.

The number of inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the two prisons has soared over the past few weeks, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread within Florida’s prison system.

At Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach, 128 prisoners and a dozen workers have tested positive for the virus, corrections officials said Friday. Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell had 89 inmates and nine employees who tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, officials said. Tomoka has a 60-percent positive test rate among inmates and Sumter’s rate is 62 percent, according to Friday’s report.

Authorities have expanded testing at the two prisons, Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said in a prepared statement released late Thursday.

“At Tomoka and Sumter, where we’ve seen community spread, we’ve expanded testing for asymptomatic at-risk inmates which allows us to focus our medical personnel and services. We have also offered voluntary testing to all staff at these two facilities,” Inch said.
While Tomoka and Sumter have the highest rate of infection among inmates, several other state prisons have also experienced outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19. At Blackwater River Correctional Facility, 48 inmates and 11 workers have tested positive for the virus. Six inmates from the Santa Rosa County facility, which is operated by The Geo Group Inc., have died of complications related to COVID-19.

Corrections officials said Thursday that a seventh inmate died of COVID-19, but they have not identified the facility where the prisoner was located. As of Friday, 293 inmates and 151 prison workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 680 of the state’s roughly 94,000 inmates have been tested for COVID-19, according to Friday's report. Forty-eight percent of the 607 prisoners whose test results are final tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest report said. The percentage of positive test results among prisoners is much higher than the general population.

According to a Friday report by the Florida Department of Health, 404,467 people statewide have been tested for COVID-19. Less than nine percent of the tests – 34,728 – were positive for COVID-19, the report said.

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