Emily Allen Published

W.Va. Corrections Reports First Positive Case In Charleston


This post was updated on April 24, 2020, at 5:30 p.m.

A corrections officer who reportedly has been self-quarantining since April 15 tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, April 23.

According to the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, this is the first case the state is aware of, related to those staffing the state’s jails and prisons.

The officer and his wife, who also tested positive, remain in “good condition,” according to the department, which added in a press release that the officer had been wearing a mask during his shifts at the South Central Regional Jail located in Charleston since March 27.

He began quarantining from home on April 15, according to the department, when his wife shared she might have been exposed to the virus during her job at a long-term care facility.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, epidemiologists with the state Bureau for Public Health have concluded there’s no present risk to employees or inmates at South Central, because the officer has been at home since April 15.

When it comes to testing data, DMAPS spokesman Lawrence Messina said Friday the DCR coordinates with the DHHR, which has been reporting statewide numbers for negative cases of COVID-19, positive cases and deaths. He added he was unaware of any more localized data from DCR-run facilities.

On Thursday, DMAPS reported there were 364 individuals incarcerated at South Central Regional Jail, which has the capacity for 460 people. 

Statewide, DMAPS reported 4,072 people in the state’s 10 regional jails on Thursday, four of which were over capacity, and 5,068 people in prison across 13 facilities, none of which were over capacity. There have been no other officers, uniform personnel or inmates that have tested positive yet, and no COVID-19 related deaths to the DCR’s knowledge. 

There have been three inmate deaths this month, Messina said, none of which are suspected to have anything to do with the coronavirus. The DCR continues to investigate.

Corrections officials posted their policy for preventing and addressing disease spread in jails and prisons last week. The plan calls for facilities to ensure access to hygiene supplies, and it also breaks down measures for quarantining inmates.  

How the policy is being implemented according to each facility, though, remains unclear. 

The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which DMAPS oversees, has denied requests to make that information public, saying it could endanger inmates, staff and the public. A U.S. District Judge on Thursday ruled the DCR must publicly file some previously confidential court documents from the division, including statements related to the policy’s implementation from the assistant commissioner and the director of correctional health care. 

According to court documents in another state Supreme Court case, officials are briefed by local facilities daily.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.