COVID-19 outbreak spreads to 53 at Dartmouth jail

COVID-19 outbreak spreads to 53 at Dartmouth jail

Cases among inmates and staff jumped by 18 over weekend

New Bedford light
November 15, 2021
By Abigail Nehring

DARTMOUTH — At least 47 people incarcerated at the regional jail on Faunce Corner in Dartmouth and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak that began Nov. 1. Cases among inmates and staff jumped by 18 over the weekend, according to a spokesperson for the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. 

There are 690 people behind bars at the Bristol County House of Correction and Jail at 400 Faunce Corner Road in North Dartmouth, 494 of whom are awaiting trial in Bristol County courts. A lockdown of the facility meant to quarantine people exposed to the virus and isolate those who test positive has so far failed to stop the spread.

It is the latest of several COVID-19 outbreaks that have occurred in recent weeks at jails in Massachusetts, including Middleton Jail in Essex County and Worcester County Jail in West Boylston. 

Speaking from a phone inside the Dartmouth jail, Lewis E. Floyd, who has been awaiting trial at Dartmouth jail since July 21, said he had been tested for COVID-19 twice — on Wednesday, Nov. 3, and Sunday, Nov. 7. 

Floyd said people around him were coughing and lying on bunks spaced about 3 feet apart. He said they lacked hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment. Everyone in his housing unit had one reusable mask, he said. He was instructed to wash it and reuse it during his pre-trial detention.

“What they’re doing is, if you test positive or if you have symptoms, they remove you to segregation. They punish you,” Floyd said, referring to the housing unit usually reserved for dealing with infractions.

“I don’t know why they’re doing this guilt by association,” said Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services in Massachusetts. “Testing in the county jails in particular has been very loose. There should be basic CDC guidelines being followed, but quarantining and cohorting has been a problem from the very beginning of the pandemic. Somebody tests positive and they treat everybody like they’re positive when that should not be happening.”

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