The Pinellas County Jail is extending until Monday a lockdown that has been in effect since May because of COVID infections, Pinellas Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, eight of the jail’s 2,875 inmates were COVID-positive. The jail has been on lockdown since late May, when 26 inmates had tested positive for the virus. This is the third time the facility has extended its lockdown since then.
The Pinellas County Jail is currently the only jail on lockdown in the Tampa Bay area. There were 22 COVID-positive inmates at the Hillsborough County Jail on Wednesday in a facility housing 2,727 inmates. None of the 1,504 inmates in the Pasco County Jail were COVID-positive as of Wednesday, Pasco Sheriff’s spokesperson Amanda Hunter said.
While the jail is on lockdown, in-person visits are suspended and gatherings such as inmate groups and classes are on pause. The jail’s video visitation center will still be in operation for those with loved ones in the jails.
Prisons and jails are especially susceptible to COVID-19 outbreaks, as the facilities allow for little social distancing and inmates are transferred in and out of the building. Jails, in particular, have a high turnover rate, as people are placed in the facility immediately following their arrests and are often later released on bail.
The Pinellas County Jail has gone on lockdown in the past following higher coronavirus caseloads. In January, 74 inmates tested positive, and in August, as the delta variant spread, 90 inmates tested positive.
From June 25 to July 1, the most recent week that COVID-19 data is available, Florida added about 10,640 coronavirus cases every day. Federal data showed found that 99% of Floridians were at “high” risk of catching COVID-19. The positivity rate statewide was 22.7%, the highest it has been since January.