Allegheny County Jail COVID cases rise; half of employees and incarcerated individuals currently vaccinated | Coronavirus | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County Jail COVID cases rise; half of employees and incarcerated individuals currently vaccinated

click to enlarge The Allegheny County Jail - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
The Allegheny County Jail
Over the past week, the Allegheny County Jail has seen a sharp increase in the number of incarcerated individuals and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to a press release, there are 83 positive incarcerated individuals in the facility, including the 10 already reported out. The jail’s current population is 1,713.

Between Aug. 5-12, the jail provided 973 rapid tests, which resulted in 55 positives. An additional number of positive tests are from an outbreak on a pod where the virus is thought to have spread from a staff member, according to a press release.

In April, Allegheny County started a policy to test the newly arrived incarcerated population with a rapid antigen test before entering the facility. Since the ACJ began rapid testing on April 12, there have been 3,876 tests offered with 3,266 negative tests, 539 refused tests, and 71 positive tests. Masks are mandatory in the facility, regardless of vaccination status.

About half of the incarcerated population and staff at the jail have been fully vaccinated. According to the county, 790 inmates, or 47% have completed their vaccination series and 63 inmates, or 4%, are partially vaccinated. According to the COVID Prison Project, about 74% of Pennsylvania's incarcerated population has at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, though its unclear if this includes jail and prison populations.

About 49% of the jail’s 352 employees are vaccinated, which includes 212 correctional officers and staff, 68 health care staff, and 87 support staff. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, about 55% of people living in Allegheny County were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 10. Vaccinations are made available to the incarcerated population, and the staff, via the jail’s medical team.

As of Aug. 9, all new Allegheny County employees must be vaccinated, but current employees are not required to be vaccinated. Current employees who are unvaccinated are required to wear masks and will be tested regularly for COVID once protocols have been established.

In response to the outbreak at the ACJ, Warden Orland Harper announced mitigating factors in hopes of limiting the spread of coronavirus. Recreation time for incarcerated individuals is being reduced. According to a press release, “General population housing units are permitted to have 15 incarcerated individuals and two incarcerated individual workers out for recreation. Physical distancing is enforced, and mask wearing is mandatory. Recreation time on quarantine units is limited to 8 incarcerated and individuals and two incarcerated individual workers out for recreation at any given time.”

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