News4Jax has learned that Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter and five deputies are awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests after the department’s Public Affairs Officer Murray Smith contracted the virus.
Columbia County has seen a total of 2,784 cases and 14 deaths as of Friday, according to the Florida Department Health. Officials say a large percentage of those are attributed to Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City, where more than 1,300 inmates and 72 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Four inmates there have died of the disease.
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and one of his top staff, Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon, tested positive for COVID-19 last week after visiting Columbia Correctional and attending a Florida Sheriffs Association conference where three other attendees also later tested positive for the virus.