230 inmates test positive for coronavirus at Western Virginia Regional Jail

COVID-19 cases among inmates have doubled after a mass test Friday

Health department inspectors toured the jail Monday and gave it the green light.

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – On Monday, health department inspectors toured the Western Virginia Regional Jail and gave it a positive review for its operation and protocols.

But some inmates are questioning that finding.

About 230 inmates out of 814 inmates have now tested positive for COVID-19 at the Western Virginia Regional Jail. Eight staff members out of 260 also tested positive.

Dr. Molly O’Dell with the Roanoke Health District inspected the jail and said compared to other jails, Western Virginia Regional Jail is clean and operates well.

However, she said there is a limited amount of PPE at the jail and it needs to be addressed.

“The amount of PPE they are using now has outgrown the waste disposal containers," O’Dell said.

Nearly a dozen inmates and family members reached out to 10 News with concerns about protocols within the jail’s walls.

Several inmates said they have been wearing the same mask for two weeks and linens are not washed often.

However, jail superintendent Bobby Russell, said masks are washed twice a week while linens are switched out weekly.

“We still have the normal operations of the jail on top of what we are doing in regards to the outbreak," Russell said.

Ryleigh Carroll, who was released last week, said inmates are scrubbing their cells with maxi pads. Russell was shocked to hear this and does not condone it.

“I feel the medical staff are there just because it’s their job," Carroll said. "I don’t feel they are there to help people there.”

After serving a six-month sentence, Khandise Chrisley was released three weeks ago. She also voiced her concerns for those still inside.

“They shouldn’t have to worry about their life being taken while they’re there. They should be treated just as the next person" Chrisley said.

Chrisley said there are three people per cell with more than 40 inmates per pod.

Russell agrees it’s been a challenge to allow for social distancing with inmates but said those who test positive are separated into a different room with other COVID-19 patients.

Several inmates said the quarantine period for the inmates who test positive ranges from three to nine days.

But, Russell said 14 days is the standard.

Along with attaining more PPE supplies, Russell said they added more medical staff members to handle the hundreds of inmates.

“We are putting resources like you have never seen toward this pandemic," he said.

While some inmates expressed their concern of medical staff members not properly disinfecting surfaces before testing another patient, Russell said they wear protective gear and address each individual with caution.

Russell said if an inmate tests positive for the virus, they are given a power drink and medication to address their symptoms. Several inmates said they are given cough medicine or ibuprofen while being encouraged to drink water.

Calls inquiring about early release dates have frequently popped up on Russell’s line and he says he understands family’s fears for their loved ones.

He said while the jail is trying to make accommodations for early releases, the true power lies with the lawyers and judges.

Until then, for the next few weeks, more rounds of testing will go around. The earliest one is scheduled for Thursday.

While more efforts are underway for a vaccine, Russell hopes they will be one of the first on the list.

“We would hope that when those are distributed that detention facilities and first responders would be at the top of the list," Russell said.

About the Author:

Alexus joined 10 News in October 2020.