Positive virus test at jail prompts monitoring of 50 inmates

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) β€” Nearly 50 inmates at a northern Virginia jail are being monitored after an inmate there tested positive for coronavirus.

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday night that an inmate in his 20s had tested positive for COVID-19 and is being isolated.

County health department spokeswoman Tina Dale said a high-risk task force visited the jail and concluded after an investigation that four individuals who had been in close contact with the inmate should also be isolated. Another 44 inmates living in the same unit as the inmate who tested positive are being monitored for symptoms and fever.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano issued a statement Tuesday calling the coronavirus case β€œan unfortunate development for our local criminal justice system.” He said he had already been developing a plan to release an unspecified number of inmates who are scheduled for release in the next 60 days anyway. He said his office reviewed inmates’ files and only is seeking release of those who will not pose a threat to the community.

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The jail holds roughly 1,000 inmates at any given time.

Jails and prisons throughout the country have struggled with the question of how to protect inmates from the highly transmissible virus. Defense lawyers and some prosecutors have advocated releasing inmates, when possible, to reduce risk of transmission.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase. The Virginia Department of Health on Tuesday said the number of positive coronavirus tests had increased from 1,020 to 1,250, the biggest single-day increase since tracking began. The health department says at least 27 people have died and more than 160 have been hospitalized.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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