41 inmates at county jail test positive; 42 new cases reported in Putnam

  • COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Putnam County and Florida.
    COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Putnam County and Florida.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office confirmed Saturday that 41 jail inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health in Putnam County reported 42 new positive tests Saturday, raising the total number of coronavirus cases in the county to 695. It was not clear Saturday if the inmates' cases were included in the overall county total.

A report said the sheriff's office has two cell blocks set aside for inmates who have tested positive and another cell block for inmates waiting to get tested.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Allison Waters-Merritt said Saturday none of the inmates were being released. "Despite precautions we knew we would not get through this unscathed," she said. "We've worked with the health department (through) every step of the pandemic and the low numbers compared to other facilities shows the proactive steps taken to minimize exposure."

According to the sheriff's office, none of the inmates who have tested positive required hospitalization and most have experienced minor symptoms.

The sheriff's office announced June 29 that 16 deputies and an inmate had tested positive for COVID-19. At that time, Col. Joe Wells said eight deputies were patrol deputies and eight were corrections deputies, with two hospitalizations. Eighteen deputies, including the 16 diagnosed, were quarantined.

"With the job we do, there's no way anyone thought we'd be (COVID-19)-free," Wells said June 29. "We foresaw this coming from the beginning."

Waters-Merritt said then that the sheriff's office was taking additional measures and operating at the highest safety level because of the "amount of contact we have, especially when it comes to the jail."

The sheriff's office has 331 inmates in the Putnam County jail, reports said. The agency said each inmate receives daily medical evaluations.

In Saturday's report, the Department of Health said 50 patients testing positive have required hospitalization since the pandemic began in March. There have been seven virus-related deaths in the county, the latest being a 78-year-old Crescent City woman, which was reported Thursday. The Department of Health has not released information on those who are considered recovered from the virus.

The state Department of Health reported more than 10,000 new cases Saturday and 93 deaths. Overall, the state now has reported 254,511 COVID-19 cases and more than 4,000 deaths.