Orange jail has outbreak of COVID-19 infections among inmates, staff

Monivette Cordeiro and Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read

The Orange County Jail is seeing an outbreak in coronavirus cases among inmates and correctional staff that has led to restrictions on inmate movement and visitor access, officials said Tuesday.

Currently, 62 inmates are infected with COVID-19, as well as 14 correctional staffers, said jail spokeswoman Tracy Zampaglione. Dr. Raul Pino, the state health officer in Orange County, said the outbreak was a first for the jail.

“Actually the jail has a very, very good protocol in place, one of the best we have seen, and they have for the most part avoided this,” he said. “But, you know, it’s a pandemic.”

Zampaglione said no inmates have been hospitalized so far. Inmate programs have been suspended until further notice.

“The Orange County Jail has seen a recent increase in inmate COVID-19 cases,” she said in a statement. “To address the issue, our response protocols remain in place, and affected inmates have been isolated and continue to be monitored by Corrections Health Services.”

The jail will not transport any inmates to the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando for the next two weeks, through Feb. 23, said Circuit Judge Julie H. O’Kane in an email to members of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“We intend to proceed forward with circuit criminal trials the week of [Feb. 22, 2021 3/8, but with defendants who are currently not in custody,” wrote O’Kane, the administrative judge over the circuit’s criminal division. “My plan at this point is to skip over the inmate cases until at least the week of March 1, 2021.”

It’s unclear how many areas of the jail have been affected, but Zampaglione said the jail’s kitchen will operate with an “alternative workforce.” She did not answer when asked how inmates have been placed in quarantine or identify which areas of the jail have been locked down.

“All affected inmate workers have been replaced,” she said. “... Increased sanitation protocols had already been in place and will remain in place. The safety and well-being of our inmates and staff remain a top priority.”

Pino said the Health Department has recommended that civilian workers in the jail, including kitchen contractors, be tested at least weekly. He said contact tracing of infected inmates and staff has helped health officials identify what they believe to be the area of the jail which sparked the outbreak.

“They are rushing to control it because a jail can be a Petri dish,” Pino said.

Since the pandemic began, the jail has had 305 inmate cases and 231 staff cases, Zampaglione said.

Staff writer Katie Rice contributed to this report.