Covid outbreak hits Westmoreland jail as caseload surges throughout county

Nov. 29—Westmoreland County Prison is dealing with another coronavirus outbreak at the lockup in Hempfield.

Nine inmates tested positive Monday after 37 active cases were discovered last week, Warden Brian Kline said.

“We shut down the work release program last week and stopped all outside volunteers from entering the jail,” Kline said.

Infections were diagnosed among both new inmates and those already in the facility. The jail's inmate population was 553 on Monday. Of those, 127 are vaccinated, Kline said.

One dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are administered in-house by the medical staff and offered to inmates every five to six weeks, Kline said. Vaccinations are expected to be offered to inmates this week, according to the warden.

In-person visitation with inmates, which are non contact and conducted through glass partitions, have continued during the latest outbreak.

The latest case surge has not yet halted inmates from being taken to the courthouse or local magistrate offices to attend hearings.

“Inmates are rapid tested before they leave and enter the jail,” Kline said.

Restrictions will be re-evaluated at the end of the week, he said.

Covid-19 cases have been identified at the jail throughout the pandemic, including two major outbreaks. In all, nearly 300 inmates tested positive in 2021, including 91 cases in November. The previous monthly high in case totals was 54 in March, Kline said.

The rise in cases at the jail mirrors the current case surge throughout Westmoreland County. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, more than 51,000 coronavirus infections have been diagnosed in the county since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The state reported that 1,440 new infections were diagnosed in the county over the last seven days, including 291 on Sunday.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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