LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Eight inmates at the Hampden County Jail in Ludlow have tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday.
According to Hampden County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Robert Rizzuto, these are the first positive cases of inmates since the start of the public health emergency. Rizzuto said there was one regional lock-up, which is a temporary detention for a local police department, arrive positive. That person was kept in isolation for the entirety of his stay, which was less than 6 hours total.
The Sheriff’s Department has started contact tracing and precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi has ordered a precautionary lockdown of the main jail in Ludlow, pending COVID-19 testing for the whole jail. Rizzuto said there’s a high concern due to a large number of arrestees from Memorial Day weekend scoring high on the COVID-19 screening process.
“Our institution is a reflection of the community we serve and we have been preparing for the inevitable positive case within our population. Our thorough medical plan to mitigate the potential for spreading the virus within the population has been ready and is now enacted. The institutional focus is now on containment. I am ordering a temporary lockdown of the facility until we can test every single person in our custody.”Sheriff Cocchi
According to Rizzuto, the jail is working with local public health departments on how to release an inmate back into the community who may have tested positive and is scheduled for release.
Also as of Tuesday, there are four staff members of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department who tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 staff members who previously tested positive but recovered and have since been medically cleared to return to work.
According to Rizzuto, the jail also had a court-ordered substance use disorder treatment patient, arrive positive for COVID-19. That person is still getting his addiction-related programming and treatment in a setting that limits the chances of spreading COVID-19 to the other men in the program.
The department took in 52 people who were arrested by local police departments across Hampden County over the weekend. Rizzuto said a majority of those individuals were placed on medical precautions after arrival based on their symptoms that were revealed through the screening process.
Due to the lockdown, Hampden County Sheriff’s Office will hold off on taking in new arrestees from police departments and Section 35 civil commitment clients from the courts until further notice.
Although the outbreak is small, family members of inmates were afraid of this happening – saying this could have been avoided.
Aime Matos, a family member of an inmate said, “We want to know why the inmates weren’t tested sooner to stop this possible outbreak that we are just hearing about.”
The jail is in lockdown, which means movement around the jail is very limited for both correctional officers and inmates. In addition, they are eating in their own separate units instead of all congregating in one area to all eat together. Sheriff Cocchi told 22News that the outbreak is contained to one unit.
“Where we had a positive case we did the entire unit and it let us to I think we had two people that were exhibiting symptoms that warranted the test then we had a little contact so we decided to do the whole unit and we ended up out of the whole unit having eight positives, Sheriff Cocchi said.
Sheriff Cocchi added that the first person to test positive in the unit is an out of county inmate. He did not say which jail the inmate was transferred from but he did say it is an area in the state with a high number of cases. The sheriff’s department is still investigating how the inmate came in contact
with the virus.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department recently had four staff members test positive for Covid-19, 12 other staff members had previously tested positive but have since recovered and returned to work.