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Two employees and a former inmate at the Volusia County Branch Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first coronavirus cases at the county-operated facility.

The jail was notified of the positive cases on Tuesday, prompting the facility to go back into lockdown mode to help prevent spread of the virus. The county also is enhancing cleaning and disinfecting procedures at the jail and is working with the Florida Department of Health on the contact tracing of anyone at the jail who may have come into close contact with the three people who have tested positive.

The inmate who tested positive was booked into the jail on June 18 showing no symptoms and was released approximately 15 hours later. While in custody at the jail, the inmate was initially in a receiving area and wore a mask for the entire time there. The inmate was later transferred to a single cell and didn’t come into contact with any other inmates in the general population. A relative notified the jail about the positive COVID-19 test on Tuesday. The two employees whose test results were received on Tuesday – one a correctional officer and the other a civilian employee – are on leave while self-quarantining.

Volusia County’s corrections staff was notified about COVID-19 showing up at the jail in a message from Corrections Director Mark Flowers that emphasized the need for proper hygiene and the wearing of masks – which is mandatory any time employees are around inmates or in a group of two or more employees. The inmate population at the Branch Jail as of Wednesday morning was 1,274.

“It is now more important than ever to wear your mask, wash your hands with soap and water and practice social distancing as best as you can,” Flowers told employees. “You must follow these guidelines as we must keep the cases contained and not allow it to spread throughout.”

To promote social distancing by preventing the congregating of inmates, the jail was placed on lockdown back in April. Under the lockdown, virtual visitation was implemented in lieu of face-to-face visitation and that service has continued throughout the pandemic. Also, all newly-arriving inmates are quarantined for 14 days and inmates’ use of showers and telephones are still permitted, but on a limited basis. Prior to Tuesday’s news, the jail had gone 103 days since the county’s declaration of emergency on March 13 without a positive case and the facility’s lockdown had been eased. But on Tuesday, the lockdown at the jail was reinstituted.

In response to recent cases, the county has made arrangements to establish a testing site on Friday for corrections, EMS and fire rescue personnel with the county and Volusia’s cities.

– Volusia County Marketing Specialist/Community Information Gary Davidson


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