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Fla. jail on lockdown again due to COVID outbreak

As of Monday morning, 34 of the jail’s 2,864 inmates were COVID-positive

By Natalie Weber
Tampa Bay Times

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Pinellas Jail is on lockdown until Aug. 22 due to a COVID-19 outbreak, a Pinellas Sheriff’s spokesperson said Monday.

The jail was on an extended lockdown earlier this summer from late May until July 11, with 40 inmates testing positive at one point.

As of Monday morning, 34 of the jail’s 2,864 inmates were COVID-positive, said agency spokesperson Sgt. Amanda Sinni.

While on lockdown, in-person visits to the jail are suspended along with inmate groups and classes. Video visitations are still an option for speaking with someone in the jail.

The facility was the only jail on lockdown in the Tampa Bay area on Monday.

The Hillsborough County Jail had 34 COVID-positive inmates as of Monday, according Hillsborough Sheriff’s spokesperson Merissa Lynn. There were 2,767 inmates in the jail, Lynn said. At the Pasco County Jail, five of the 1,516 inmates there had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, Pasco Sheriff’s spokesperson Amanda Hunter said.

Prisons and jails are particularly susceptible to coronavirus outbreaks due to the lack of social distancing possible in the facilities. Additionally, there are often many people coming in and out of the jails, as people are booked in the facility immediately after arrest and others are released on bail.

According to the COVID Prison Project, more than 600,000 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus and nearly 3,000 have died as of Friday.

Florida is entering its third month of high caseloads, according to recent coronavirus data from Florida health officials. From July 22-28, Florida reported 73,346 coronavirus cases, adding more than 10,000 cases a day on average. The positivity rate statewide was 23.2% with rates slightly lower in the Tampa Bay area, ranging from 21.1% in Pasco to 20.5% in Hillsborough and 19.1% in Pinellas County.