CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — At least 118 inmates at a West Virginia prison have tested positive for the coronavirus after an effort to contain the state’s first outbreak inside a correctional facility, officials said Monday.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice said the new cases at the Huttonsville Correctional Center came as officials finished testing throughout the facility. The Randolph County prison had its initial case around two weeks ago.
“You see at the end of the day, what we’ve done here is we’ve run to the fire again,” he told reporters.
State records show more than 950 Huttonsville inmates remain in quarantine. At least eight staffers have also tested positive. The prison was the site of the state’s first case among its inmate population.
Justice has said he wants virus testing at all the state’s correctional facilities. He has not said when the testing would be finished, though data show few inmates outside of Huttonsville have been tested.
Betsy Jividen, corrections department commissioner, said cases have remained rare inside state jails and prisons because the facilities have been following federal safety guidelines.
Statewide, health officials reported that at least 76 people have died from the virus. More than 2,000 people have tested positive.
Justice has been pushing forward with his plan to lift virus restrictions on businesses, setting June 5 as the reopening day for casinos and movie theaters. He is also allowing low-contact youth sporting events to resume June 22 with fans in the stands.
The governor’s plan to remove restrictions hinges on the state’s positive test rate staying under 3% for three days, loosening a previous goal of having the number of new cases drop for two weeks.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptom. But for others, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including life-threatening pneumonia.