The Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond, June 12, 2015. Credit: AP Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Seventy-four cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the Raymond Detention Facility and the Work Center, Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance said in a Tuesday press release.

Of the total number, 14 employees and 60 detained people tested positive for the coronavirus. Vance said the positive cases were found after random rapid testing was conducted. He also said employees are on mandatory quarantine while detained people are being separated and quarantined within the facilities.

Other employees within the HCSO have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in quarantine, though the official number of people is not yet available, HCSO Captain Tyree Jones said in an email.

“The (Hinds County Sheriff’s Office) will continue to practice and enforce safety measurements for both detainees and employees,” Vance said in a statement released Tuesday.

This outbreak comes as the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus spreads across the state, causing the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 in the state. With increased social activities during the summer months and Mississippi’s low vaccination rate, hospitals and ICUs across the state are seeing a spike in people infected with the Delta variant. The Delta variant currently represents nearly all COVD-19 infections circulating in Mississippi, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.

Earlier this year Dr. Marc Stern, an assistant professor of health services at the University of Washington and an expert in correctional health care, told Mississippi Today jails and prisons are also high-risk locations for the coronavirus to spread.

“(It’s) much more likely that you’re going to get infected because it’s hard to keep social distance,” Stern said. “Ventilation may not be great. Hand hygiene may be challenging. Mask wearing may be challenging. All those things that we’re supposed to do are more difficult in a correctional setting.”

Vance said the increased COVID-19 numbers within the Raymond facilities also reflect the number of positive cases in the general public. 

On July 20, the Mississippi Department of Health reported 961 new cases of COVID-19 and 8 deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 330,664 and 7,485 total deaths.

With over 2 million shots administered, only 34% of Mississippians have been fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

“I personally encourage people to get vaccinated in an effort to slow the spread and minimize the numbers of those infected,” Vance said in a Tuesday press release.

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Brittany Brown was Mississippi Today’s Justice Reporter, covering the state’s justice system with an eye for racial justice and inequity. Brittany formerly served as Mississippi Today's inaugural Emerging Reporters Fellow.