By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Each Day, the Allegheny County Jail updates the number of inmates who have been diagnosed or have been tested for COVID-19.
On the morning of April 27, the website showed 8 positive cases of COVID-19 and five pending tests. By the end of the day, however, that number had more than doubled, but the number of tests had only increased by two. It’s the largest one-day spike of infections at the jail since the crisis began. And a seemingly impossible jump, given, that there hadn’t even been 11 pending tests ever listed on the website.
The Pittsburgh Current reached out to the county for comment last night asking:
Can you explain how that many positives were reported when the jail’s website showed significantly fewer pending tests?
Does the ACJ have some rushed testing service?
Is the site being properly updated?
Are not all administered tests being listed?
This morning county spokesperson Amie Downs sent the following response: “Well, it’s a 24/7 facility so tests are taken when symptoms present themselves, including after an update is provided and after typical business hours. The site is being updated once a day. And yes, as the ability to test is expanded, results are turned around more quickly.”
Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam has been a critic of the jail’s handling of COVID-19 since the crisis began.
“This is exactly what we’ve been warning about for months,” Hallam said. “Allegheny County Jail has a 51% positive COVID-19 test rate (19 positive out of 37 results). Fifteen of those cases were announced in the past week—11 in the past 12 hours—hinting at a potential incoming explosion in cases. Countless other individuals and entire pods are being quarantined, with only five test results pending, as symptomatic individuals go untested, further skewing their results.
“It is increasingly likely that we will unfortunately see a significant spike in cases over the next two weeks. As local and state officials alike have been discussing reopening plans, our incarcerated populations have been noticeably absent from these discussions.”