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Mississippi regional jail hit hard by coronavirus outbreak

LUCEDALE (AP) — More than half of all inmates at a regional jail in south Mississippi have tested positive for the new coronavirus, a warden said Thursday.

George County Regional Correctional Facility in Lucedale has the largest COVID-19 outbreak at any prison or jail in the state, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

The warden at the George County facility, Bobby Fairley, told the Clarion Ledger that 229 inmates and three staff members there have been confirmed with COVID-19. He said some test results are still pending, but did not know how many.

The jail has 32 staff members and usually holds about 420 inmates. Some inmates are awaiting trial, and others have been convicted and are being housed there by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

George County Sheriff Keith Havard told the Sun Herald that two people with the virus were taken to George County Regional Medical Center. They were treated and returned to the jail.

“The good thing is the symptoms have been mostly a very light fever and body aches,” Havard said. “It started out really scary, but I do believe we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel because everything appears to be rolling along pretty smoothly.”

The jail is being deep-cleaned daily and Havard is working with emergency management officials to get additional personal protective gear for inmates and staff.

Inmates with the virus are under quarantine in the same area of the jail, he said. Unless hospitalization is needed, inmates with the virus are being treated by the jail’s nurse, Havard said.

Mississippi has a population of about 3 million. The Health Department said Thursday that the state has had at least 57,579 confirmed cases and at least 1,611 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening. That’s an increase of 1,775 confirmed cases and 48 deaths from numbers reported the day before; those numbers included 23 deaths that occurred from July 10 to July 27, with information arriving later on death certificates.

At least 3,537 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 721 virus-related deaths in those facilities, the Health Department said.
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