Western Virginia Regional Jail undergoes mass coronavirus testing after outbreak

120 inmates and five staff members tested positive for coronavirus, families are concerned.

SALEM, Va. – Western Virginia Regional Jail initiated mass testing for the coronavirus Friday, and inmates' families are worried about losing their loved ones.

Clyde Barton asked himself, “if someone loses a loved one who is going to answer, who is going to take the responsibility?" after finding out two days ago his wife contracted the coronavirus.

His wife is one of 120 infected inmates at the Western Virginia Regional Jail.

The jail’s superintendent Bobby Russell said there are also five staff members who have tested positive. However, Russell said most do not have significant symptoms and there are no hospitalizations.

One man is waiting for his fiance’s results as she was tested three days ago and is worried whether she is getting the help she needs.

“I mean they’re doing their job but they’re not doing the job they should be doing," he said. "They are not licensed to be medical staff. And the jail is not set up to be like a quarantine thing, like a hospital.”

This is why a mother of a different inmate is calling for cots to be spread out further. She said her daughter called last Friday reporting symptoms of a fever and body aches and was offered Ibuprofen.

“I said well that’s the wrong thing to be treating you with," she said. "So I called the nurse up there and left a message for her, telling her that she was sick and she needs to get checked.”

Days later her daughter tested positive.

“They’re in there. They’re trapped in there. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nowhere to go," she said.

Russell said staff is sanitizing the facility daily with electrostatic sprayers and are washing masks twice a week.

A month ago, the Salem jail took in several inmates from the Franklin County Jail because of an outbreak there.

However, Russell said the inmates have returned and the uptick in cases is not connected to the temporary move.

Families are asking for non-violent offenders to be released out of fear of social distancing measures not being maintained.

Russell said the Department of Corrections is working to make early releases for people with short sentences or are expected to be leaving soon.

“It’s a facility to hold people for doing things wrong," Barton said. "But it should also be a safe facility for the people who need to stay there.”

Russell said he expects the results from Friday’s mass testing to come back Tuesday.


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