Virus surging in Southampton County

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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146-case increase reported Monday to Tuesday


Southampton County saw its largest-ever surge in COVID-19 cases overnight Monday to Tuesday, reporting 146 new infections.

The county, which has a population of 17,631, has had 721 confirmed cases since the pandemic began — making it the seventh highest per capita caseload in Virginia. Of these, 21 are currently hospitalized and 22 have died.

Western Tidewater Health District Director Dr. Todd Wagner confirmed most of the new cases are 

linked to Deerfield Correctional, a state prison near Capron designed for elderly inmates who require assisted living. The prison saw its first outbreak of the virus in April when over 50 inmates tested positive, and is currently experiencing a resurgence of the virus.

“That’s definitely a big reason,” Wagner said of Southampton’s surge. “They had a surge earlier in the year. It was quelled for a while.”

Earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Corrections confirmed a second outbreak had recently occurred, with 489 positive inmates and another 26 positive staff members as of Sept. 14. 

As of Wednesday, 724 inmates and 35 staff members at Deerfield had tested positive since the start of the pandemic. Of these, 472 who remain incarcerated on-site, and another 22 currently in the hospital are active cases, meaning more than half of the prison’s 925 average daily inmate population has come down with the virus. Ten inmates have died, the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities to occur at any Virginia state prison.

“As we’ve witnessed in nursing homes everywhere, the offender population at Deerfield is unfortunately more vulnerable to the coronavirus,” said Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke.

On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, the Department of Corrections mass testing team performed COVID-19 tests on 605 offenders and 232 staff members at Deerfield. According to a press release the department issued Wednesday, these were individuals at Deerfield who had not tested positive in the three months prior. The team returned to Deerfield on Sept. 14 and tested offenders in three housing units, including the assisted living quarters and the infirmary. On Sept. 16, the department collaborated with Virginia’s Department of Health and the Virginia National Guard to conduct point prevalence testing of 445 inmates and 183 staff members.

Deerfield has now begun weekly testing of its infirmary and assisted living staff in response to a recently-added VDH requirement for nursing homes.