SOUTH BAY, Fla. — An inmate has died at the South Bay Correctional Facility from the coronavirus, as cases continue to skyrocket at the facility in the Glades.
The death was confirmed by the GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based company that operates the private state prison.
The correctional facility, which has nearly 1,950 prisoners, now has 175 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
On May 1, WPTV reported only 14 inmates had tested positive for the virus.
In addition to these cases, the DOC says 59 staff members have tested positive, which is the highest number for any facility in Florida.
Also, 1,002 inmates are in medical quarantine, which is also the highest of any facility in the state.
Across Florida, there have been 18 inmates that have died from COVID-19.
"We're seeing a constant spread and South Bay. In particular, it has been a huge problem in terms of spread throughout the state of Florida," said State Sen. Bobby Powell.
Powell receives daily updates about the cases at the facility.
"They don't have access to hand sanitizer. They don't have access to freely go wash their hands and also social distancing is almost impossible to do that," said Powell.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, the chair of the appropriations subcommittee on civil and criminal justice, tells WPTV procedures have been updated with more screening for employees. He said he would like to see some prisoners released during this pandemic.
"Whether that is looking at our elderly release, or maybe looking at those with just three to six months left of their sentence, to try to put them on home confinement if that's appropriate," said Brandes.
Click here for the latest coronavirus figures from the Florida Department of Corrections.
Below is a statement from the GEO Group on the death and cases at the facility:
“As of June 12, fifty-eight employees at the South Bay Correctional & Rehabilitation Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Twelve of the employees who tested positive are currently at home on self-quarantine with pay, while 46 of the employees have fully recovered and returned to work after meeting return-to-work guidelines for essential workers issued by the CDC. Unfortunately, the impact of the virus has resulted in the tragic loss of an individual residing at the South Bay Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility and we express our condolences to the family of the individual.
As part of our ongoing commitment to taking all measures to keep those in our care, our staff and the local community safe and healthy at all times, we began facility-wide testing in May to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Realizing who is positive, asymptomatic and who could still be susceptible to the virus allows the facility to separate and manage individuals until the required quarantine time has elapsed – significantly reducing the spread and keeping staff and inmates safe. Additionally, once an inmate returns to the community, he or she can make informed decisions based on their testing status.
Consistent with protocol, we are working with the State Health Department to identify any staff members who may have had contact with the employees who tested positive and will issue self-quarantine guidance to those employees if necessary. Staff knowing their status will enable them to protect their family and friends if positive and protect themselves if they are susceptible to the virus. Any inmates who may have had exposure to the employees who tested positive will be placed in medical isolation, consistent with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to allow for medical staff to monitor their health and wellbeing.
Throughout the course of the pandemic we have fully disclosed all information related to COVID-19 testing, cases, and fatalities to the State of Florida, which it has reported publicly on its website. We have issued a statement on our website on the steps we have taken at our facilities to address the risk of COVID-19. The health and safety of all those in our care and our employees is our utmost priority and we will continue to coordinate closely with the State of Florida and the local health department to ensure their health and safety.”