State prison in rural Liberty County has highest number of inmates infected with COVID-19

The Florida Senate voted Wednesday to shut down one state prison. Credit: Iuoman/Getty Images

In Liberty County, the last Florida county to report its first case of COVID-19, the state prison now holds more infected inmates than any other in the system, according to state data released Thursday.

Liberty Correctional Institution reported 167 confirmed infections in inmates, up from 56 four days ago when the prison’s first round of testing revealed an outbreak, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Seven Liberty prison employees are confirmed infected, too, up from just two on Sunday. The prison incarcerates 1,363 men.

Thursday’s Department of Corrections report said the second-most infected state prison was Tomoka Correctional Institution in Volusia County, where 129 inmates and 19 employees are confirmed infected.

Just a week ago, before testing began, the prison in Liberty County reported no infections in inmates. Until April 10, none were reported anywhere in the county. Through Thursday morning, Liberty still had only four cases of COVID-19 that were not directly related to the prison, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Seven Liberty inmates with COVID-19 symptoms are in medical isolation awaiting test results and another 343 are in medical quarantine, having been directly exposed to an infected person, according to Corrections data. No one in Liberty County had been hospitalized through Thursday morning, according to the Department of Health.

Statewide, the Department of Corrections reported that 507 inmates and 187 prison employees are infected. Another 76 are awaiting test results, mostly at Apalachee Correctional Institution in Jackson County, and 4,350 are in quarantine or isolation. The state prison system incarcerates roughly 96,000 people.

Seven state inmates have died of COVID-19; six of them were incarcerated at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, privately run by The GEO Group, in Santa Rosa County. The Department of Corrections has refused to disclose details about inmate deaths during the pandemic. A medical examiner released information on the first six inmate fatalities. It was unclear Thursday where the seventh inmate death occurred.