After months of attempting to mitigate COVID-19′s spread through the Florida prison system, Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch is facing the highly infectious disease himself.
In a press release sent late Friday night, the department said Inch and Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon have tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting Columbia Correctional Institution and attending a Florida Sheriff’s Association conference July 27.
On July 30, Inch came down with COVID-19 symptoms and tested positive the same day. Inch, who is still experiencing mild symptoms did not require hospitalization and is self isolating at home.
Dixon is also self isolating but has not experienced symptoms.
“We both look forward to returning to work as quickly as allowed by CDC guidelines,” Inch said in a statement Friday night. “I want to encourage all Floridians to continue protecting our vulnerable residents, practice proper hygiene, wear masks when in close contact with others and practice social distancing to slow the spread of this virus.”
According to the department, those who interacted with Inch or Dixon have been notified and encouraged to get tested themselves.
There are 1,300 inmates and 72 staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Columbia Correctional in Lake City. Four inmates there have died of the disease.
In total, 8,126 inmates and 1,675 staff have been infected. Fifty inmates have died.
On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, when asked by a reporter about the situation with Inch, Dixon and the death of a jailer, responded generally without explaining what he’s doing to address the worsening conditions.
“Well the prisons have been a reflection of, you know, as the prevalence has increased in the community, you know we’ve seen it increase with, like, the guards,” DeSantis said during an 8:30 a.m. news conference. “There’s been a lot of testing that’s going on. There’s been a lot of things that are done, you know to limit the spread within that system. But it’s a difficult, difficult problem. So we really appreciate, I think, the folks who have been working in that, you know, really worked incredibly hard, over the last, really, month. But certainly, you know, the last four to six weeks have been, you know, really trying. So we appreciate all the efforts that they’re doing. It’s not an easy situation when you’re dealing with a prison setting.”
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