MIDDLETON, Mass. — At the Essex County Jail in Middleton, authorities thought they might have gotten COVID-19 under control.
Protocols put in place after COVID-19 struck in the spring seemed to work. Over the summer, COVID-19 cases at the jail plummeted to zero.
But in mid to late September, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger noticed the numbers sneaking up.
On September 24th, there were five positive COVID-19 cases at the jail.
After conferring with the state, Coppinger ordered mandatory testing of all inmates, staffers, volunteers, and vendors.
The results were startling.
Out of 1,600 people tested, 137 inmates and 31 staffers were COVID-19 positive.
And out of those testing positive, 72% were asymptomatic, showing no signs of infection.
“How many of our fellow citizens in the Commonwealth, or in the country, are asymptomatic, and are out walking around in society, or out working, or being with the families? And they don’t know it. And they have the virus and are capable of spreading it, that’s scary to me,” said Coppinger.
All 137 COVID-19 positive inmates have been transferred to a segregated unit until they test negative.
The staffers are being quarantined at home.
So far, Coppinger said symptoms have been mild.
If any symptoms become more advanced, treatment is available at the jail, or at Beverly Hospital.
Still, Coppinger is concerned that this could be the start of a second wave of the novel coronavirus.
Three hundred more people at the jail were tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday.
“We’re taking nothing for granted," said Coppinger. “We are doing whatever we can to keep everyone safe and get back to those zeros.”
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