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Number of prison workers in Florida with COVID-19 climbs to 16

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The number of Florida prison employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 climbed to 16 on Thursday, according to the Department of Corrections.

The latest count of workers who have been diagnosed with the highly contagious respiratory disease is a jump of four over the dozen cases that were confirmed by corrections officials late on Monday. The most recent cases involve employees who work at Apalachee Correctional Institution in Jackson County, Liberty Correctional Institution in Liberty County, Columbia Correctional Institution in Columbia County, and South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach County.

The 16 corrections workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 are employed at 11 prisons across the state and two probation offices in Lake Butler and West Palm Beach. Blackwater River Correctional Facility, a private prison in Santa Rosa County run by The Geo Group, has three positive cases, the most in a single prison. Apalachee Correctional Institution has two positive cases, and all other facilities have a single case.

As of Thursday morning, corrections officials said there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases within the inmate population. But it is unclear how many prisoners have been tested. The Department of Corrections and the Department of Health have not provided a tally of inmates who have been tested.

In a statement Thursday, Florida emergency management officials said the state is “continuously distributing collection kits to counties and testing sites across the state to support testing and is “dedicated to ensuring that any person who meets the criteria for testing is tested.”

Corrections officials, meanwhile, said they are working with the Florida Department of Health to monitor and contain potential outbreaks in the prison system, which has 143 facilities, more than 23,000 employees and roughly 96,000 inmates.