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Third COVID-19 outbreak hits Danville Adult Detention Center; director suspects K2 joint led to spread

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    DANVILLE, Virginia (Danville Register and Bee) — Five inmates at the Danville Adult Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the second outbreak at the facility this month and the third since December.

The inmates tested positive last week and are in quarantine, said Frank Mardavich, the facility’s director.

“As far as we know, we haven’t had any serious symptoms,” Mardavich said Monday morning.

Facility officials suspect the outbreak stemmed from an inmate who felt sick without telling anyone and did not want to be pulled off from work release. The inmate likely passed it on to another inmate who spread it while smoking a K2 (synthetic marijuana) joint with a group of fellow inmates, Mardavich said.

A report of another inmate being sick prompted testing of a group of inmates, Mardavich said.

Five initially tested positive on a less-reliable, but faster, rapid test. Those positive results underwent a more accurate molecular test, and they all came back positive again, Mardavich said.

The fast-acting rapid test sometimes yields false positives, so the more reliable molecular tests are applied to the positives.

The facility has been using rapid-test equipment on inmates since January. Positive results are double-checked by sending the sample to a lab in Richmond.

In January, two inmates who tested positive on rapid tests ended up being false positives.

Earlier this month, 10 inmates and staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Those 10 included eight inmates and two staff members. It was the second outbreak at the facility since December, when seven inmates tested positive.

None of the facility’s inmates that Mardavich knows of has been vaccinated, but some staff have, he said.

Residents of corrections facilities are included in Phase 1b for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently being offered locally to everyone in Phases 1a, 1b and 1c.

When asked last week if they wanted the vaccine, 35 adult detention center inmates raised their hands, Mardavich said. Of those, 10 have put their requests in writing. There are 69 inmates at the facility.

Mardavich said he wants to wait until inmates at the Danville City Jail have been vaccinated before getting the doses for those at the detention center. He doesn’t want state officials to get the jail and detention center mixed up.

Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said about 60 of the jail’s more than 200 inmates have opted to receive the vaccine, which will be given there this week.

“We are working with the health department and doing those vaccinations on the 31st,” Mondul said Monday.

Over at the detention center, all new inmates are quarantined for five days upon entering, Mardavich said.

Masks are mandated in the secure areas of the facility for staff. Inmates are encouraged but not forced to wear them.

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