JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health will begin testing about 2,700 Jacksonville inmates after employees and inmates of the Duval County jail were exposed to a doctor who tested positive for COVID-19, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said.
The unidentified doctor is employed with Armor Correctional Health Services, according to JSO officials. Armor Correctional Health Services has a contract with JSO to provide medical care to patients in the jails.
Friday, two inmates in a JSO department of corrections facility tested positive for novel coronavirus. The same day inmates and employees were exposed to the Armor Correctional doctor. On Sunday, JSO was notified of 18 more inmates testing positive for COVID-19. 17 employees are in self-quarantine, records show.
The Jacksonville Sheriffs office stopped in-person visitation at the city’s detention centers in March, but contractors and new inmates were still coming into the facility.
Inmates and contractors, like Armor Correctional employees, were asked questions related to COVID-19 and had their temperature taken. Contractors were turned away if their temperature was elevated. Armor Correctional employees were required to fill out a form and have it signed off on by another staff member, according to the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, JSO was not testing all new inmates coming into each facility. As a result of the recent outbreak, all new arrested inmates will be tested. Inmates can refuse the test but will be placed in 14 day quarantine.
“We have had now 20 inmates that we have tested that have tested positive,” said Undersheriff Pat Ivey with the Sheriff’s Office. “It has affected a few of our employees and a couple of contract employees with our health services provider in the jail.”
Ben Frazier, a Jacksonville civil rights activist, demanded the release of high-risk inmates in a written statement that city officials. Frazier requested inmates who don’t present a greater danger to themselves or other than the virus, inmates who have fewer than 90 days left on their sentence and inmates charged with minor offenses to be released if they don’t have enough money to pay their bail.
Jennifer Romedy told News4Jax she is praying for her fiance Isaiah Johnson, who is in the Duval County jail. She said he’s in the detention facility due to a parole violation, and that he shouldn’t have to live in fear of COVID-19.
“He is telling me that the conditions inside Duval County jail concern inmates, who are very concerned for their lives,” Romedy said.
Silvia Hertzog also has a loved one inside the jail who she said is an inmate that has less than a month to serve due to a misdemeanor. She had a question for the sheriff.
“Cant we do better?” Hertzog said. “If your loved one was locked in there, wouldn’t you want safer precautions for them?
The State Attorneys Office released a memo in March urging prosecutors to look at the possibility of letting certain non-violent offenders out of jail to cut down the number of inmates potentially exposed to the virus inside the jail. State Attorney Melissa Nelson said then her office was working to reduce the jail population. It’s unclear how many inmates have been released so far as a apart of this effort.