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12 Florida prison workers test positive for COVID-19

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The number of Florida prison workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 jumped to 12 on Monday, according to the Department of Corrections.

Three of the employees diagnosed with the highly contagious respiratory disease work at Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa County, according to The GEO Group, the private company that runs the Panhandle prison.

A fourth person works at Apalachee Correctional Institution in Jackson County, officials with the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Monday.

The latest count of infected workers is a jump of four over the number of cases reported by the corrections department late Friday.

Employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus will not be allowed to return to work until they have been cleared by medical professionals, agency officials said in a statement posted on the Department of Corrections’ website Monday.

The dozen employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 work at eight prisons across the state and two community corrections regional offices in Lake Butler and West Palm Beach. Corrections officials said there are no confirmed coronavirus cases within the inmate population as of 3 p.m. Monday.

Offenders “living in the community” on probation or parole who test positive for the disease, who are not included in the agency’s tally of confirmed cases, will “work directly with their probation officer on reporting requirements,” officials said in the statement.

The corrections department is working with local health departments on all potential or positive cases of COVID-19 “to conduct a trace-back contact investigation and determine if additional staff or inmates need to be tested due to close contact risk factors,” the statement says.

Corrections officials also 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.