ROANOKE, Va. – Family members of inmates at the Roanoke City Jail are frustrated over the latest coronavirus outbreak. The Roanoke Sheriff’s Office released recent COVID-19 numbers and nearly 70 staff members and inmates have tested positive for the virus.
Jackie Barbour’s son who has been an inmate at the city jail since October tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
“How did they contract it? There is no way they could get it. They’re not out here in public population,” questioned Barbour.
She questions how her son and others who have been behind bars for months tested positive when new inmates go through a mandatory quarantine process and are tested before they join the general population.
The Western Virginia Regional Jail (WVRJ) utilizes the same protection process for new inmates. Of the 30 inmates currently positive, the Deputy Superintendent tells 10 News “the overwhelming majority” of the cases were detected in that quarantine intake process. No staff members have tested positive.
“I would be surprised to find any correctional facility that has put more emphasis on it. That has included our PPE but also our disinfection techniques,” said WVRJ Deputy Superintendent David Cox.
There are currently 417 inmates at the Roanoke City Jail. There is around 800 at WVRJ.
The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts began vaccinating inmates this week.
According to Deputy Superintendent Cox, approximately 250 vaccines have been administered so far.
Roanoke City Jail hasn’t begun its process.
In an emailed response sent to 10 News, officials with the Roanoke City Jail said they are, ”still working with the VDH on vaccine availability for the inmate population. We are patiently awaiting the start of that process.”
For both facilities, staff members have begun their vaccination process through local VDH events.
There is no source for the Roanoke City Jail outbreak.
In a statement, the director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts said, “This week we, the districts, requested 200 doses be sent to WVRJ. We also have plans to vaccinate all of our correctional facilities, both jails and prisons, that are located in the district. We believe this is a critical social justice issue. The reason is that they are congregate living facilities, which is why they’ve been placed by the state and the CDC in Phase 1B. The risk to the staff and population living there is very high just as it is for any congregate living facility.”