A section of the Washington County jail housing female inmates is under quarantine after multiple women tested positive for COVID-19 during a small outbreak earlier this month.
Three female inmates in the 1-Southeast section of the jail tested positive Sept. 17, prompting its lockdown due to its dormitory-style living quarters, Warden Jeffrey Fewell said.
Two male inmates at the 4-West maximum security pod also tested positive the same day, but other inmates living in that area are not being quarantined because the two infected men are segregated from the rest of the population, Fewell said.
Restrictions for both areas will be lifted Oct. 9 following three weeks after the initial positive tests, as long as no one else is infected with coronavirus until then.
“It’s a little bit of a spike. It could be a whole lot worse,” Fewell said. “It’s been a blessing, really. No one is really sick. No one is going to the hospital.”
However, the quarantine has delayed at least one court case from proceeding.
Gracie Mitchell, 28, of Ambridge, was scheduled to go to trial Monday on charges of drug delivery resulting in death, but her placement in the female pod under quarantine has pushed her case back. Mitchell is accused of supplying fentanyl-laced heroin to a man who was found unresponsive in his vehicle in North Strabane and died June 18, 2018, according to court documents. Mitchell had the option to attend her trial through video conferencing, but she declined and jury selection has been moved to Dec. 8, according to court documents.
Fewell said no other inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 17.
The staff and inmates are being tested regularly, he said, while visitation has been conducted through video conferencing during most of the pandemic. Fewell said 50% of the jail’s 339 inmates are currently vaccinated, but only 30-40% of the jail’s staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re moving on and we’re protecting the public,” Fewell said. “Overall, though, we’ve been really spared.”