ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — When the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was a lot of concern over confined populations in area jails and prisons.
St. Lucie County is seeing a record number of COVID cases in its jail.
"Officers were wearing HAZMAT suits to go into the dorms that were positive for COVID," said one woman who was recently released from the jail.
Figures out Tuesday show that 77 of the more than 1,300 current inmates have tested positive for COVID, a record number.
"I was trying to be cautious and wear my mask and be careful," the woman said.
St. Lucie County Chief Deputy Brian Hester said they were able to get their protocols in place quickly and isolate those inmates.
"When there’s a positive case within a dorm, we test everyone within that dorm," Hester said.
As of now, most jail programs have been put on hold.
"We’ve stopped them for 14 days. We’re going to monitor cases and make sure we don’t have a drastic increase in cases," Hester said.
The chief deputy said video visits via tablet were supposed to be reinstated next week, but now they’re reassessing that situation.
Hester said about 300 inmates are vaccinated, and vaccines are being offered in conjunction with the health department. He added that if there is any good news from an outbreak, it’s that these latest cases have been mild.
"We’ve had no hospitalizations due to COVID, no fatalities due to COVID, and I'd say most, 90% plus are asymptomatic," Hester sai
In April of this year, ground was broken on a new visitor center.
Construction has yet to start but the hope is it will be completed later this year or early next year to create a safer space for visitations in the age of COVID.