Western Tidewater Regional Jail reports over 100 inmates positive for coronavirus


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A coronavirus outbreak at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail has left more than 100 inmates infected and some family members worried.

On Saturday, officials at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail announced coronavirus testing results for inmates, staff, and contractors within the facility.

On Saturday Oct. 3, the facility announced the following results:

  • 109 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus out of the 756 housed at the facility.
  • Six staff and contractors employed at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus out of the 180 employed.

The mass testing came after some inmates tested positive for the virus. The jail’s first positive inmate test was on Sept. 8.

“You could hear the mucus in him, I know he was, I could hear it. I said ‘What’s wrong?’ he said ‘Mom they told me I got corona,'” said Denise Chapman. She says she got the unsettling news Sunday that her son is one of the 109 inmates who had tested positive at the jail.

“This is a dangerous thing, this coronavirus is really dangerous and I’m really concerned about my son,” she explained.

Jail Superintendent William C. Smith tells 10 On Your Side getting this testing was a priority for them and they have placed all positive inmates in quarantine.

“When they go into a quarantine status, they’re kept in the same housing area for at least 14 days,” he said.

Chapman says she still worries that her son is not getting regular treatment.

“I don’t want to get no phone call in the midnight hours that say ‘We had to rush your son to the hospital ’cause he got bad,'” she said.

In addition to getting several visits from the nurse daily, there is more access to personal protective equipment and fluids. Smith said they’ve planned for this with the help from the Virginia Department of Health.

“If they require treatment that exceeds the abilities of the medical staff at that point we would send them out to the hospital or emergency care clinic,” said Smith.

Chapman says it’s her mother’s intuition that keeps her up at night. 

“My heart goes out to parents that got kids in there ’cause I know my heart is broken. I can’t sleep at night ’cause I worry about my son with this coronavirus,” she said.

Western Tidewater said two inmates had inconclusive test results and will be retested.

The jail has taken the following precautionary measures to ensure that inmates and employees are getting the medical treatment they need.

  • Immediately affected individuals were identified and isolated from the general population.
  • In an abundance of caution, the jail facility remains on lockdown status.
  • Should any offender require care beyond that of the on-site medical staff they will be transferred to the hospital.

The vast majority of coronavirus-positive inmates and staff were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, the jail said on Saturday.

Officials said, “all affected employees were placed on emergency paid leave and all offenders continue to be appropriately treated by medical staff — who provide 24-hour on-site medical care”

“After our first positive case any inmate that’s brought in the facility besides being isolated, they’re also tested for the COVID virus.”

Smith said he worries, too, and he asks the community to have faith in them.

“It’s stressful for the inmates — we realize that — and their families and we just ask that they have confidence in our ability to treat the inmates appropriately,” he said.

Western Tidewater Regional Jail said no inmates or staff are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.

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