Florida prison coronavirus cases continue increasing

Florida corrections officials on Wednesday reported 72 new COVID-19 cases among state prisoners, bringing the total number of inmates who have tested positive for the respiratory illness to 1,191.

The largest jump in cases came at South Bay Correctional Facility, a prison operated by The Geo Group Inc., a private contractor. The Palm Beach County prison, which has 106 confirmed cases among prisoners, saw an increase of 38 new cases since Tuesday.

Three other prisons with outbreaks saw their cases increase on Wednesday including Hamilton Correctional Institution, which has 142 inmate cases; Apalachee Correctional Institution, which has 95 inmate cases; and Blackwater River Correctional Facility, where 66 inmates have tested positive and seven others have died from complications of COVID-19.

Two more corrections workers also have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total confirmed cases among staff members Wednesday to 241.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week the Department of Corrections would continue to expand testing for inmates. As of Wednesday, corrections and health officials had conducted 9,690 inmate tests, an increase of more than 3,200 tests in one week.

As more inmates were tested, the Department of Corrections saw a 41 percent increase in the number of inmate cases from last Wednesday.

Ten prisons in various parts of the state have reported COVID-19 outbreaks. Those prisons account for 98 percent of the 1,191 inmates who have tested positive.