More than 24 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the tri-county area have been identified in long-term care and correctional facilities.
That’s according to statistics released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health. Those percentages are significantly higher than comparable numbers across the state, where 7 percent – 43,985 – of Florida’s 668,846 cases have been identified in long-term care centers and 3 percent – 21,760 – have been reported in jails and prisons across the Sunshine State.
Marion County leads the way in the tri-county area with 10 percent of its 9,217 cases identified in long-term care facilities and 24 percent – 2,209 – in correctional facilities. Of those, 1,075 are being reported at the Lowell Correctional Institution among 1,318 inmates and 98 staff members. Another 341 have been identified at the Marion Correctional Institution among 313 inmates and 28 staff members.
In late July, the Marion County Jail reported 209 cases among inmates. The following month, Sheriff Billy Woods made national headlines when he sent out an email stating that the majority of his deputies, employees and those visiting the sheriff’s office would be forbidden from wearing face coverings amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby,” Woods wrote in his email.
Nine percent – 196 – of Sumter County’s 2,121 cases have been identified in long-term care facilities, with another 22 percent – 470 – reported in correctional facilities. As of Tuesday, 138 cases were being reported at the Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell among 103 inmates and 35 staff members. Another 310 cases among 205 inmates and 105 staff members have been reported at the federal prison in Coleman, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In Lake County, 7 percent – 518 cases – have been reported in long-term care facilities, while just 2 percent – 168 – have been identified at correctional facilities. In June and July, the Lake County Jail battled an outbreak of COVID-19 that claimed the lives of two deputies – Richard “Rick” Barry and Lynn Jones. The virus also infected inmates, other staff members and contract nurses working in the facility.