The Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchell has 169 inmates and 13 employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Virginia Department of Corrections statistics.
Just one of those inmates is hospitalized for treatment.
Coffeewood’s coronavirus cases have more than doubled since Nov. 5, when the prison reported that 80 inmates tested positive. Since the onset of the pandemic, the prison has reported 234 total cases.
The good news, according to Culpeper County Emergency Services Director Bill Ooten, is that the vast majority of those testing positive at the prison are asymptomatic.
“So the hope here is that in time they will recover and hopefully there will not be a whole lot of adverse effects from it,” he said.
Since March, health department statistics show that there have been 1,597 positive cases, 101 hospitalizations and 18 deaths in Culpeper County related to the pandemic.
On Monday morning, the county reported 99 new cases, a spike Ooten noted is primarily attributable to the prison outbreak.
Statewide, there have been 193,447 reported cases, 13,116 hospitalizations and 3,713 deaths. Those statistics include 177,240 confirmed cases and 16,237 probable cases while there have been 3,447 confirmed deaths and 266 probable deaths. Confirmed cases include those who have tested positive while probable cases are individuals who are symptomatic with known exposure to the virus.
On Tuesday morning, Ooten noted that he will participate in a conference call with prison, hospital and county officials to discuss the Coffeewood outbreak. While just one inmate is receiving treatment, he said it is important to prepare for the potential of additional hospitalizations.
Ooten noted that the best defense against the coronavirus in congregational facilities is not letting it arrive in the first place. Once it has arrived, he said mitigation is the best line of defense and Coffeewood is working hard to prevent further spread.
For example, he noted that the prison has isolated inmates who tested positive from the general population and visitations have halted. Additionally, he said all staff and employees are screened before entering the facility.
“They’ve been very proactive,” Ooten said.
Besides Coffeewood, Ooten noted that Culpeper County does not have any other significant outbreaks.
School transportation workers test positive
Meanwhile, Russell Houck, Culpeper County Public Schools’ executive director of student services, stated in an email that two transportation employees tested positive for COVID-19. He added that a third employee is awaiting official test results but is showing symptoms and “presumed positive.”
Contact tracing has determined that no bus drivers, students or teachers have tested positive.
While the positive cases within the office fall under the health department's definition of an outbreak, Houck said it will be reported as a “business outbreak” instead of a “K-12 school outbreak.”
Stay vigilant in mitigation practices
Until a viable vaccine is available, Ooten reminded citizens to continue practicing mitigation measures such as wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding touching eyes and faces.
“People have COVID fatigue and I get it. People are tired of being cooped up and not getting together in groups...But the virus is absolutely, certainly still here. It is still spreading,” he said.
A free drive-thru testing station courtesy of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District will be available 3-6 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Department, 1601 Church Road.
The parking lot will open at 2 p.m. and the first 500 individuals who arrive will receive the free tests. A doctor’s referral is not required and individuals do not have to be symptomatic to receive tests. Those who have previously tested positive, however, cannot be tested.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Coffewood Correctional Center, which is a prison, as a jail.