Cambria prison reports uptick in COVID-19 cases; area counties see levels dip

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Aug. 31—EBENSBURG, Pa. — Cambria County Prison is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, the warden said.

The prison has 14 positive cases involving inmates and five for staff members.

As recently as March, the prison reported four cases and had ended a no-visitation policy due to declining virus levels.

Warden Christian Smith said Wednesday that the positive cases involved inmates from two dormitory-style housing areas.

The rooms are designed as larger common spaces for six inmates each, he said, making close contact between them "unavoidable."

"The positive inmates have all been isolated in a different housing unit and the remainder of the inmates (they shared space with) in the two units have been quarantined," Smith said.

The latter inmates who were in close contact with the COVID-positive peers must wear masks while quarantined. Nurses visit the units four times per day to ensure symptomatic inmates are tested.

"Another round of mass testing for both units is planned for later this week," Smith said.

Smith said vaccination opportunities remain available in-house through the prison's medical services provider, PrimeCare Medical.

But because PrimeCare must use an entire vial at a time — 10 doses — it's not always possible to quickly conduct vaccinations, he said.

"Lack of the vaccine is not an issue, however, lack of interest from the inmate population is," he said. "In order to avoid wasting any vaccinations, there must be enough interest to use all 10 doses in a vial prior to a vaccine clinic being offered. "

The prison's increase comes as the Cambria County population itself saw cases jump in August.

The latest figures released Wednesday from the Department of Health show that trend may be slowing.

Cambria County itself added 301 new cases over the past seven days — down 64 from a week earlier.

Last week's total was the county's highest 7-day count this summer.

The county also added one death, bringing the total since 2020 to 755.

Somerset County added 94 new cases over the past seven days.

That's also more than 60 below last week's mark.

Bedford, Blair and Indiana counties had similar totals this week.

Bedford added 71 cases, Blair added 222 and Indiana added 156.

Blair also recorded two more deaths, while Indiana added one.

Westmoreland added eight deaths while Clearfield and Centre both added one each.

Clearfield added 156 cases.

Centre added 309 and Westmoreland added 567, a figure that has also been falling the past few weeks.