By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Twenty-five inmates and five employees at the Allegheny County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email sent today by Warden Orlando Harper and obtained by the Pittsburgh Current.
In the email Harper writes:
“It has been confirmed by our Health Department that five employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The employees have been quarantined since Dec. 4.
“It has also been confirmed that 25 inmates from the ACJ have tested positive for COVID-19. The ACJ continues to follow the guidance provided by the Allegheny County Health Department as it relates to the safety of employees and inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic…
“Physical distancing continues to be stressed to employees and inmates across the facility.”
On Nov. 20, the Current reported that 25 employees of the jail were at home on quarantine after attending a party and a wedding with other jail employees.
When contacted by the Current this afternoon, Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam, also a member of the Jail oversight board, said
“We have been saying this since the beginning: The reason the official case number in the Allegheny County Jail is so low is that they haven’t been testing people. No testing means no positive cases,” Hallam said. “We need to work to drastically reduce the population, especially considering many court proceedings have been postponed due to the recent emergency order issued by President Judge Clark.”
A report of inmates testing positive has been expected as incarcerated kitchen workers, who live together in one unit, were all put on quarantine in the past week. It’s the second time these workers have been quarantined during the pandemic. But that potential spread of COVID-19 was only discovered when an inmate was transferred to a state prison without a COVID-19 test and officials in that facility discovered the positive test.
Earlier this summer Hallam and other members of the oversight board pushed for universal testing, however, that effort was rebuffed.
This is a breaking story and will be continually updated throughout the afternoon.