charleston — The West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety released Monday the number of inmates tested for COVID-19 at West Virginia jails and prisons, as well as those in community corrections and juvenile services programs.

That number is 88, according to a new page on the state’s coronavirus.wv.gov website, under “Correctional Facilities.” Earlier this month, 4,535 people were incarcerated in state jails, alone, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Among local facilities, eight tests were performed on inmates at Mount Olive in Fayette County. Seven tests came back negative, and one is pending. Officials say they conducted one test at Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County, and it was negative.

The facilities with the most testing were Eastern Regional Jail in Berkeley County, where 16 tests were negative and none positive; Western Regional Jail in Cabell County, where 11 results were negative and one is pending, and South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County, where 10 tests were performed and all were negative. 

On Friday, DMAPS announced its first positive case among staff or inmates — a South Central Regional Jail correctional officer. The document released Monday does not include correctional officers. It says it includes test performed on “incarcerated persons who are symptomatic.”

Officials had repeatedly noted no positive cases at jails without giving the number of tests performed. 

Also Monday, a coalition of advocacy groups sent a letter to Gov. Jim Justice, asking him to “make universal testing available to all people detained or employed in these facilities as testing supplies become more available.”

“Since studies indicate that many people who have and can spread the virus are asymptomatic, this is the surest way to identify cases of infection and to allow authorities to take appropriate measures in the interest of all West Virginians.” The group included the American Friends Service Committee, WV Council of Churches, WV Access to Justice Commission, Catholic Dioceses of WV, American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, Americans for Prosperity, and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy

“We believe that people in congregate settings ... are at higher risk for spread of the virus and so as we start to reopen the state, we will pay particular attention to vulnerable populations and congregate settings to assess the presence of the virus to try to continue to reduce the rate of spread,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, state coronavirus czar.

Email: ebeck@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @3littleredbones

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