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Florida inmate, prison worker COVID-19 cases soar

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s prison system recorded more than 1,500 new COVID-19 cases and two inmate deaths over the weekend, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Corrections. 

The number of prisoners who had tested positive for COVID-19 climbed to 12,438 on Monday, an increase of 1,463 cases since Friday.

The two inmate deaths brought the total number of inmates who have died of COVID-19 to 65.

Also, an additional 98 corrections workers tested positive for the deadly respiratory illness over the weekend. In total, 2,044 corrections workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of mid-Monday. Corrections officials said 860 workers had been cleared to return to work after testing positive.

As the virus continues to rapidly spread in the corrections system, several prisons have seen their COVID-19 cases explode this month. Taylor Correctional Institution, which is in Perry, went from 25 inmate cases on Aug. 1 to 564 inmate cases on Monday. Meanwhile, the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler went from a single case on Aug. 1 to 116 inmate cases on Monday.

As of midday Monday, corrections and health officials had conducted 73,078 tests on inmates, including 7,486 tests that were awaiting results.

The Department of Corrections oversees about 87,700 inmates. 

Corrections officials reported Monday that 6,701 of the department’s roughly 24,000 employees had been tested for COVID-19. Department officials for months refused to disclose the number of employees who have undergone COVID-19 testing, but reversed course last week. Corrections officials do not require employees to get tested for COVID-19, but they have offered tests to all staff members at 22 state prisons.