BRIDGETON — A Cumberland County jail inmate has tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said Friday.
The inmate, whose name was not released by officials, is in isolation, according to the Daily Journal. Officials said 10 other men in the inmate’s unit tested negative for the coronavirus.
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The Press of Atlantic City did not receive a response to a Friday morning request for an update on the number of inmates and staff who have been tested so far and how many were positive and negative. There was no immediate response Saturday morning to the same request.
This is the first case in an inmate that the county has reported. Officials confirmed 14 cases in employees in May, a week after jail Warden Richard Smith sent an email to The Press stating “we do not have 14 officers who are positive for COVID-19.”
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“PBA Local 231 is not a disgruntled few but a disappointed many,” said Victor Bermudez, president of the local that represents correctional police officers at the jail. “Proving once again that fake news needs to be fact-checked further, giving our civil suit and organization credible merit.”
Attorneys for the union filed a civil lawsuit in April, alleging jail officials failed to develop policies and provide necessary equipment for corrections officers ahead of the pandemic. Smith, Deputy Warden Charles Warren, the county, the county freeholder board and its members are named in the suit.
One of those attorneys, Stuart Alterman, said Saturday the inmate in question had been been moved around to four different areas of the jail and housed with multiple inmates over a period of 130 days.
Jail and county administrators have not been forthcoming about the effects the coronavirus have had on the facility, ignoring multiple requests from The Press for data on the total number of jail employees and inmates who have been tested for the disease.
The Press submitted an Open Public Records Act request last month to the county clerk for invoices showing personal protective equipment, cleaning services and testing. A response received this past week included invoices showing the county has spent more than $386,000 on disinfecting services at the jail in March, April and June. However, a request for forms reporting inmates or jail employees referred for COVID-19 testing to county or state Health Departments was denied, with officials citing an exemption under confidentiality of health and personal records.
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State officials have confirmed there is no centralized dashboard or accounting of COVID-19 cases in jails, and county officials are not formally obligated to report testing data to the DOC, leaving them to develop their own pandemic response policies and procedures. Counties oversee jails, the state oversees prisons.