CAMDEN, NJ — In June, Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli said Camden County jail - in contrast to other such facilities statewide - had yet to report any coronavirus cases among its inmate population.
A county spokesperson confirmed to TAPinto Camden on Thursday that that is no longer the case - with 39 confirmed positive inmates and another 75 cases among staff members.
All the inmate cases took place in the fall.
Staff cases are those reported since March 1. Whether a majority of staff cases took place during a specific time frame was not available as of this report.
None of the cases have resulted in deaths, said Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen.
“None of those individuals have been hospitalized and all of the positive residents have been cohorted, or separated, from the general population within the facility,” Keashen said, noting he could not yet confirm if hospitalizations among staff members was necessary. “Furthermore, each resident that has tested positive is receiving treatment from the facility’s medical provider.”
The jail, which houses 813 inmates as of Thursday, has protocols in place for COVID-19 testing and quarantining - with roughly 800 screenings conducted thus far. As part of the process of arriving at Camden County jail, each inmate is tested and quarantined prior to joining the general population, with a dedicated COVID-19 unit set up to isolate when needed.
The pandemic continues to run rampant in Camden County, where 373 new cases and 18 new deaths were announced Thursday evening - for totals of 20,567 cases and 633 deaths. Camden city, where the jail is located, has 5,013 cases and 96 deaths.
In addition to ramping up testing at the facility amid a second wave of the virus, 15-minute rapid tests have been introduced.
“Visitations are on hold right now based on the positivity and transmission rates in the county as whole, inmates can still call out, but like long term care facilities only staff are allowed inside the facility,” Keashen added.
He called procedures at the jail since March, when the outbreak began locally, “extremely stringent.”
According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, 307 employees and 298 staff members have contracted COVID-19 since Aug. 22.
In October, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill to reduce sentences for prisoners at facilities with the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country.
“Reducing our prison population will undoubtedly further our mission to combat COVID-19,” Murphy said at the time. "Although the infection rate has dropped and an earlier plan sent some inmates temporarily to their homes, the new reductions will “allow for even more social distancing."
Approximately 2,088 people were expected to be released Nov. 4, with another 1,000 or so freed in the subsequent weeks through January.
However since those were state facilities, no inmates were released as part of the law from Camden County jail.