Preventing COVID-19 spread at HCC a challenge
If state officials manage to avoid a mini-epidemic at the local prison where it has been revealed that six people have tested positive for COVID-19, they will pull off something of a miracle. It is difficult to imagine an environment more friendly to communicable disease than a prison.
After weathering two months of the coronavirus pandemic without recording any cases, the state prison system finally has succumbed. On Wednesday, it was revealed two inmates and two employees at the Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County had tested positive for the disease.
The very fact that corrections and public health officials have kept COVID-19 out of jails and prisons for so long testifies to the effectiveness of preventive measures. But once this enemy is inside the gates, the way is open for it to go on a rampage.
In the Ohio Valley, residents know all about that. The Belmont Correctional Institution near St. Clairsville has suffered three inmate deaths because of COVID-19. Seventy-six employees and 141 inmates tested positive for the disease, though of those numbers, 23 staff members and 60 prisoners have recovered.
Perhaps, with experience and information Ohio prison authorities lacked with COVID-19 invaded their facilities, West Virginia corrections officials can be more effective in controlling the disease at Huttonsville. Let us hope so — because, while the health of inmates certainly is important, a prison outbreak threatens the entire surrounding community. Some of the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio cases reported stemmed from contact with BCI staff members.
Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials have done an excellent job combating COVID-19, in many respects. The disease’s incursion into a prison is one more test. Avoiding a significant outbreak in Randolph and surrounding counties may well depend on conquering this new challenge.