W.Va. governor calls for more testing as prison cases rise

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday said he wants widespread coronavirus testing at all the state’s correctional facilities as cases continue to rise inside a rural prison.

At least 102 inmates and eight staffers at the Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County have tested positive for the virus, according to state records. Around 360 tests are still pending.

Justice, a Republican, did not give a timeline on when testing at all the state’s lockups would begin, but he said it should happen as quickly as possible. Corrections department data show few inmates have been tested outside of the Huttonsville facility.

“As we continue to expand our testing capabilities we should test every single inmate and every single staff person at all our facilities,” Justice told reporters.

The Huttonsville Correctional Center had the state’s first inmate coronavirus case, after a 62-year-old prisoner tested positive last week. Justice said he ordered testing throughout the facility after screenings had been limited to the area where the initial cases were located.

Betsy Jividen, corrections department commissioner, said jails and prisons have been following federal safety guidelines. She said cases will likely continue to rise as courts resume normal hearings and more people enter the criminal justice system.

Federal prisons have also reported virus cases. At least five inmates have tested positive at FCI Gilmer, a federal prison in Glenville, after the federal Bureau of Prisons transferred 124 inmates to the lockup. A staffer at FCI McDowell and a staffer at FCC Hazleton have also tested positive.

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.

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