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First Inmate at State Prison in W.Va. Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Gov. Jim Justice and General Counsel Brian Abraham look over information during Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing.

CHARLESTON — After weeks without a single case, state officials announced Tuesday that an inmate in the state’s prison system has tested positive for the coronavirus.

During his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that an inmate at the Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County has tested positive for COVID-19.

“Regretfully I tell you we had our first positive test in our jail system,” Justice said. “Last night, we had a 62-year-old male…who tested positive. The is the first inmate in our West Virginia correctional facilities to contract the virus.”

Justice said the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation and state health officials will test all inmates, correctional officers and staff on the same cell block starting today. Justice said testing of all employees is likely, but testing of all inmates will depend on the results from the cell block.

“I think we’re going to move forward to test all the staff in the entire facility,” Justice said. “If need be, as we test those today, if we find we have additional positives we’ll expand that testing to all the inmates in the entire facility.”

The Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety announced Monday that a part-time employee at Huttonsville also tested positive for COVID-19, though Justice said Tuesday that the two cases were not connected to each other. The employee, a temporary correctional officer, is in self-quarantine at home and last worked on May 14.

“In reviewing the matter with the (Division) of Corrections and DMAPS, this morning, the local health officials believe they have identified person zero in that case and they know the source that brought the spread into the facility,” said Brian Abraham, general counsel for the Governor’s Office. “These individuals were contained in a particular unit. Those units are segregated from others and don’t intermingle, so they think they have identified the location and identified the individuals.”

The Bureau for Public Health within the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Randolph County Health Department are working with Huttonsville and the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation on testing protocols and how to best quarantine future cases within the prison and jail system.

“We’ve got to be prepared to run to the fire,” Justice said. “Our National Guard, our health officials and everything are doing great work. You know this disease is with us. It’s everywhere, and we have had wonderful blessing that we have not had an issue in our jail systems and everything. We knew it was probably coming and when it came, we’re trying to run to the fire and make sure we put it out and put it out as quickly as possible.”

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