Florida Inmates Test Positive for Coronavirus at an Alarming Rate

A prison officer leading a prisoner in handcuffs. Photo: LightField Studios/Shutterstock.com

In Miami-Dade alone, nearly 500 jail inmates have tested positive for the virus so far. This accounts for 41% of inmates tested in Miami jails. Approximately 481 inmates of 1,166 inmates have tested positive, according to a memo released by Miami-Dade’s corrections department on Tuesday, May 19. At Tuesday’s meeting, the head of the jail system’s medical services told commissioners that 10 inmates have been hospitalized. One such inmate, Charles Hobbs, has died of complications from the virus. Almost all with symptoms have been treated at the jail.

No inmate testing is pending as of yet.

Inmates in jails and prisons across the United States have been particularly susceptible to the spread of the virus no thanks to tight space and a lack of proper social distancing abilities. 

Miami-Dade has the highest number of inmates that tested positive for coronavirus. The County seems to have tested far more inmates than other counties in Florida, about one-third of those incarcerated. It is therefore difficult to compare whether county jails are doing worse than other lockups.

We do know as far as other Florida prisons go that more than 1,100 inmates have tested positive as of Tuesday afternoon for COVID-19. Ten of those have died. But the 9,225 tests so far represent less than 10 percent of the nearly 95,000 inmates in the state system

Satellite view of Manatee County jail. Caption and Photo: www.inmateaid.com

On May 1, an inmate at the Manatee County jail tested positive for the coronavirus.

During his arrest and while he was being booked into the jail on Thursday, April 30, the 60-year-old man said something to the arresting deputy and medical staff that prompted the man to be tested, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Randy Warren. At the time of his arrest, the man (whose name has not been released for medical privacy reasons) did not show any symptoms, but was still placed in a pressurized cell in the medical unit at the jail. The man is still not showing any symptoms of the virus.

A second inmate tested positive for coronavirus on May 18 at the Manatee County jail. The man is currently the only inmate in custody with the virus. The 58-year-old man admitted to deputies and staff while being booked that he had been exposed to a family member who is positive for the virus.

He remains in custody and is being held on bonds totaling $14,000.

Back in April, two Florida prisons saw the number of inmates test positive for COVD-19 skyrocket, according to a report released by the Florida Department of Corrections on April 24. The combined number of inmates with COVID-19 at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach and Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell climbed to 126 that day Friday. Tomoka, which had seven infected inmates a week ago, is the state’s hardest-hit correctional facility amid the pandemic. In addition to the inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, 1,090 inmates at the prison are either in medical isolation or quarantine after being exposed to the highly contagious virus, officials said at the time.

Sumter Correctional Institution also saw a significant uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past week. The men’s prison has a capacity of 1,639 inmates, has 44 prisoners who have tested positive for the virus, an increase from three prisoners who.were confirmed positive on April 17.

Before the pandemic, roughly 4,000 people were being held in Miami-Dade jails. Lawyers and judges are working around the clock to try to get the number down to about 3,200 on any given day.