The coronavirus has returned to the Westmoreland County Prison and courthouse.
Warden Bryan Kline said 42 inmates have tested positive this month and are in quarantine at the Hempfield lockup. The first positive tests came on March 10 after the virus was cleared from the jail in January. Judge Rita Hathaway on Monday halted prisoner transports to the courthouse and district court buildings until further notice.
Discussions with state corrections officials about possible vaccinations for county inmates are planned for this week, Kline said.
Meanwhile, the county controller’s office reopened Monday after being forced to close for three days at the end of last week. Eight employees in the office tested positive for the virus this month. All 28 staffers worked from home last week.
Positive cases among courthouse employees were down to zero at the end of January after about 120 had contracted the virus, prompting office closures and other safety precautions to slow the infection’s spread.
The number of new cases countywide has been increasing in recent weeks after dipping in late February and early March. The current numbers are still far lower than spikes in December and early January, according to state department of health figures.
Kline said inmates who have tested positive are being quarantined and monitored by medical staff. No one has been hospitalized with covid-19. There were nearly 500 inmates at the jail Monday.
“Obviously, there’s no way to track where it comes from,” he said.
New jail commitments are being tested upon arrival and quarantined for 14 days. If those new prisoners have a negative test at the end of the quarantine period, they are moved into the general population. Employees and attorneys visiting the facility are subject to temperature checks. The first inmate there tested positive in July.
In-person visitation has been prohibited for the past year. Some guards have gotten vaccinated and Kline praised them and medical staff for handling the outbreak on a daily basis.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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