JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday confirmed to News4Jax that two employees of the Pre-trial Detention Facility and three inmates at the jail have died due to complications from COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began, this is the first time the Sheriff’s Office has released information about COVID-19 deaths involving employees and inmates of the Duval County jail. It’s unclear when the deaths happened.
The first cases of COVID-19 were reported at the Duval County jail in June, according to JSO. In September, the FDOH reported in the four month period that at least 240 corrections officers tested positive at the jail and that 400 inmates tested positive.
Sheriff Mike Williams said in June a medical staff member with third party healthcare contractor Armor Correctional health exposed inmates and employees inside the jail to COVID-19. According to Williams, the Doctor previously showed symptoms of the virus but failed to notify jai personnel.
“We had done a great job up until, you know, we had one employee or contract employee not follow, you know, basic protocol and really started this whole chain,” said Williams. “They were, at some point, symptomatic and didn’t report that. It was one of the health care workers in the jail. They, obviously, have since been removed and are no longer an employee of the health care provider.
Since November, News4Jax has been asking the Department of Health for an update on the number of inmates who have tested positive for the virus since September. The agency has declined to provide the number of positive cases.
The Jacksonville Sheriffs Office has provided the number of its employees testing positive when requested, but has deferred requests on inmates positives to the Florida Department of health.
“Due to the Fluctuation in inmate population throughout the day, this data point is difficult to accurately provide. Because the Florida Department of Health strives only to release data that is accurate and will not compromise privacy or investigations, we will not be able to grant this request,” said Florida Department of health – Duval County spokesperson Samantha Epstein in an email on January 19.
The Florida Department of health Refused to provide the information again Wednesday.
The virus cases have had an impact on court hearings. In November, for instance, three criminal trials were stopped after two defendants and an employee coming from the jail tested positive.
In regard to the Duval County jail deaths, a request for comment Wednesday afternoon from the Sheriff’s Office and the FDOH was not immediately returned.
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