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Pinellas jail in lockdown to quell coronavirus spread

Out of the roughly 2,950 people in jail Friday, 74 were positive for the virus.
The Pinellas County jail was in lockdown this week to quell a spike in coronavirus cases among those incarcerated there.
The Pinellas County jail was in lockdown this week to quell a spike in coronavirus cases among those incarcerated there. [ Times ]
Published Jan. 14

The Pinellas County jail was in lockdown this week to quell the latest wave of coronavirus cases among those incarcerated there.

Out of the roughly 2,950 people in jail Friday, 74 were positive for the virus, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Lockdown means there is no movement in the jail unless someone is being released.

A likely culprit is the omicron variant, which spreads more easily than the original strain of the virus, although experts have warned from the start of the pandemic that close-quartered jails and prisons are more vulnerable to contagious diseases.

Jails, in particular, experience a high level of turnover. People are often booked in after arrest and bail out within a few days. The remainder are largely either awaiting trial without bail or with a bail they can’t afford — meaning they have not been convicted — or serving sentences of less than a year for lower-level crimes.

That number of cases Friday wasn’t as high as the 90 that plagued the jail in August, when the delta variant was tearing through Florida. Employees of the jail at 14400 49th Street N offer tests to everyone being booked in but only about half take them up on it, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

There were a few dozen more cases at Hillsborough’s two jails. As of Monday, 101 inmates were in isolation with the virus, out of a population of 2,736, said spokeswoman Merissa Lynn. Among jail staff, the number of positive cases was 40.

The Land O’ Lakes Detention Center in Pasco County had 14 positive cases among inmates, sheriff’s spokeswoman Amanda Hunter said. Employees at that facility test every person who is booked in; they’ve administered more than 16,500 tests to date.

• • •

How to get tested

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find the free, public COVID-19 testing sites in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.

The U.S.: The Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a testing site.

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your ZIP code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

More coronavirus coverage

OMICRON VARIANT: Omicron changed what we know about COVID. Here’s the latest on how the infectious COVID-19 variant affects masks, vaccines, boosters and quarantining.

KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.

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