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Baltimore City jail sees its largest jump in coronavirus cases among staff and inmates in four months

The Baltimore City Central Booking and Intake Center has confirmed 55 new cases of coronavirus — the largest weekly increase at the facility since April, according to numbers from the Maryland Department of Health.

The figures include 30 new cases among corrections staff and 15 among inmates at Central Booking in the past week, according to data released by the state Wednesday.

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A total of 130 inmates and 81 members on the facility’s correctional staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of outbreak in Maryland prisons. At the booking facility, a total of 1,145 inmates and 642 correctional staff have been tested for the virus, according to recent numbers from the department.

In April, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services announced that it has released 2,000 inmates from its jails, prisons and other detention facilities. The vast majority of those released were those awaiting trial.

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Prisoner advocacy groups and public defenders have called for widespread testing of inmates and for more access to personal protective equipment for inmates and staff.

The department has since implemented universal testing in its facilities following Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to do so after prison advocates and public defenders voiced concerns.

The number of cases reported by the Maryland department of corrections differs from those reported by the state’s health department because of a difference in when each publishes its totals, according to Mark Vernarelli, a corrections spokesperson.

Vernarelli said the numbers of cases “fluctuate” often, as they would outside of the prison population, which he said is backed up by “point prevalence testing,” which examines tests on inmates during a certain time frame.

Baltimore’s Central Booking Facility has the second-highest total of confirmed cases among inmates in the state, behind the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, where 148 inmates have tested positive since the start of the pandemic, according to department numbers.

The Jessup Correctional Institution, located at a different site, currently has confirmed the second-most cases for correctional staff in its facility for the state at 63 cases.

Across the state, 524 correctional staff members and 672 inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to the department. Eight inmates have died of complications from COVID-19.

As the department looks to control further spread of the virus, the demand for resources such as protective masks, hand sanitizers and proper protocol for keeping inmates in clean facilities and social distancing measures remains high.

In July, the department said Maryland had supplied more than 2 million pieces of personal protection equipment to staff and inmates, but advocates and prison union members said that was the bare minimum, as staff and inmates can use up equipment at a fast rate.

The department has issued more than 2.18 million items, including disposable and reusable gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, face shields and goggles.

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