MASSACHUSETTS — Two Massachusetts jails reported spikes in coronavirus case counts over the weekend, as the state continued to see a resurgence of the virus that had been kept in check for most of the summer.
At the Essex County jail in Middleton, all staff and inmates were being tested after 25 prisoners, 21 employees and two contractors tested positive for COVID-19. And at the Department of Correction’s Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Plymouth, 11 employees and 28 patients tested positive for the coronavirus.
The case count at the Essex County jail was the highest since the week ended April 12. That week, when there were 28 confirmed cases among inmates and seven among workers, was the first week jails were ordered to release weekly case counts. There were no cases reported at the jail between Aug. 6 and Sept. 9. The outbreak started during the week ended Sept. 30, when there were 30 total positive tests at the jail, up from just three one week earlier.
“Like with so many other areas across the state, we are seeing a surge in this highly-contagious illness and this is despite having the most rigorous of health and safety protocols in place,” Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said. “We continue to work around the clock to fight back against this virus and to ensure the health and safety of all who live and work at our Middleton facility.”
The facilities are closed to visitors and movement inside is restricted.
An April court ruling said people charged with most crimes should be released without bail “unless an unreasonable danger to the community would result, or the individual presents a very high risk of flight.” The ruling let people serving sentences of 60 days or fewer file motions to have their sentences revised or revoked.
As of Sept. 30, more than 2,000 inmates had been released from county jails in Massachusetts under the order.
The increase in coronavirus cases at Massachusetts jails reflects the broader increase across the state in recent weeks. Massachusetts reported its highest daily positive test rate in months Saturday, as well as 600 new coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to 131,814.
The numbers represent a drop from Friday, when the state reported 753, the most cases in a single day since the spring. Still, 600 is more cases than Massachusetts reported on any day in September.