By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a breaking story and will be updated as information becomes available
A record-high 76 incarcerated Individuals at the Allegheny County Jail are currently being tested for COVID-19 after an inmate who works in the kitchen tested positive the Pittsburgh Current has learned.
According to an email obtained by the Pittsburgh Current, sent to the Jail Oversight Board from Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark:
Dear Oversight Board Members.
I received the following information from Warden Harper.
It has been confirmed by our Health Department that an employee of the ACJ has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee has been quarantined since June 26, 2020.
An inmate on Pod 2A, tested positive for COVID-19. This inmate worked in the kitchen.
The entire kitchen unit is being quarantined and the Warden is working to make sure all inmates receive meals. They are in the process of training other inmates to work in the kitchen.
The information has been posted on the website.
As of Monday morning, the county had 31 cases of pending COVID-19, including six employees. Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner along with Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam sit on the jail board and attempted to have universal testing mandated on May 7. ACJ officials were against the testing and the board voted it down. Last week, several employees at the ACJ told the Current, they believe the cause of the spike is due to puzzling quarantine procedures and a drastic increase in new inmates.
The news comes a day after John Hopkins and UCLA released a study that said prisoners are 5.5 times (550 percent) more likely to get COVID-19 and three times more likely to die from it. Based on the findings, researchers say “systemic change is needed: “COVID-19 in US prisons is unlikely to be contained without implementation of more effective infection control.” According to Forbes.com: The data was collected by the UCLA Law project “Behind Bars Data Project” between March 31-June 1 and includes stats from state and federal prisons in all states. That data was then compared to CDC data.
Contributing factors to the increase in infection and mortality rates include close confinement, limited PPE and an increased risk for heart and breathing problems.
Update, July 10, 2020: The ACJ posted on its website this morning that a second inmate has tested positive for coronavirus. There are still 60 pending tests.