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Coronavirus in Florida

COVID-19 cases pile up in Florida prisons

Coronavirus is sweeping the Florida prison system.

Stats from the Florida Department of Corrections reveal that coronavirus continues its path through the penal system.

As of Wednesday morning, 40 staffers and five inmates tested COVID-19 positive.

That number is up from 37 staffers and four inmates the day before.

New positive tests include staffers at Hernando, Lowell, and Wakulla Correctional Institutions, representing the first cases in those facilities.

Additionally, an inmate in Sumter has tested positive. A staffer there had previously tested positive, raising questions of potential community spread.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, which resisted release of immunocompromised inmates, won’t reveal the number of inmates or workers who have been tested for COVID-19, or how many prisoners are in medical isolation due to the virus.

Activists are concerned.

“I think the lack of information coming from the Florida Department of Corrections is very troubling. We know that once the virus is inside, it is very difficult to contain it and Floridians have a right to know what is happening to 95,000 people in the state,” Southern Poverty Law Center staff attorney Sumayya Saleh told the News Service of Florida on Tuesday.

Members of the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform on Wednesday urged state officials to expedite the process of getting people out of jails and prisons.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis has the power to commute prison sentences, and he’s not doing it,” said Micah Kubic, executive director for the ACLU of Florida. “To avoid a major coronavirus outbreak, we need to safely reduce the prison and jail populations.”

The gravest concerns, however, come from members of the 96,000 person population in Florida prisons.

“We all know prison isn’t clean. It is an incubator for germs and viruses,” wrote one correspondent to Florida Politics, whose name and location will be protected.

However, the Florida Department of Corrections urges perspective.

FDC has 50 major institutions, 17 annexes and seven private facilities. Most facilities do not have a confirmed staff case, and no state run facilities have a confirmed inmate at this time,” asserted DOC spokesperson Michelle Glady on Tuesday.

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The News Service of Florida and Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles contributed to this post.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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