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20 new COVID-19 cases at York County Prison since Wednesday

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

At least 20 inmates at York County Prison tested positive for COVID-19 over a three-day period this week, officials said in a news conference Friday, and more than 100 cases have been detected among inmates over the past few weeks.

In total, 190 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began, and 173 were in isolation as of Saturday, according to a news release.

Officials are awaiting 60 test results and said 12 inmates have recovered from a positive diagnosis, the release said.

Most of the newly detected cases were in asymptomatic inmates, York County Commissioner Doug Hoke said.

"By its very nature, there is a turnover of commitments and releases at our prison, more so than in state correctional facilities," he said. "This makes a fluid situation."

Hoke said the prison's health care vendor, PrimeCare Medical, ramped up its testing in recent weeks, and the increase in cases correlates to the increase in testing.

As of Friday, the total inmate population at the prison was about 1,300 people, Hoke said, and the prison had conducted 1,463 tests.

More:York County has 49 new cases of COVID-19, death toll remains at 127

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 City of York Medical Director Dr. Matt Howie speaks at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. The recent uptick in positive COVID-19 testing, specifically at York County Prison, was addressed. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Dr. Matt Howie, director of the York City Health Bureau and chief health strategist for York County, said it's to be expected that there would be an increase in the number of tests during a localized outbreak.

"It's a cycle of testing, isolation, quarantine, repeat testing and just repeating that cycle consistently until you get control of the outbreak," Howie said.

Separate units: There are three units at the prison based on testing status, Hoke said.

Inmates who test positive are housed in one unit and isolated from other inmates, and they're tested each week until they test negative for the virus.

Inmates who were potentially exposed to the virus are grouped in the second unit, where they're quarantined until their status is known.

Inmates who have tested negative are grouped in the third unit.

The specific number of inmates who were in each unit couldn't be disclosed publicly due to privacy protections, York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said.

If an inmate scheduled for release were to test positive, he or she would be given the same instructions as any other person who tests positive, Wheeler said, which would be to self-isolate at their home for 14 days and to follow all public health directives.

York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler, front, speaks while City of York Medical Director Dr. Matt Howie looks on at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. The recent uptick in positive COVID-19 testing, specifically at York County Prison, was addressed. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Of the 500 employees who work at the prison, fewer than 10 have tested positive for the virus, Wheeler said.

And of the 190inmates who have tested positive, only two have been hospitalized, she said.

One of the two had been furloughed on work release, and that inmate was sent home after being discharged from the hospital, Wheeler said. The other inmate is still in the hospital but is doing well, she said.

York County as a whole has seen a spike in new cases recently, with a few students and staff members at school districts testing positive amid the start of the new school year.

As of noon Friday, York County had 49 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the total to 3,667 since the outbreak began, the state Health Department reported.

More:At York County Prison, 169 inmates have had COVID-19, most asymptomatic