Dr. Avula, Sheriff Irving address inmates' COVID-19 concerns in jails during virtual town hall

Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 at 11:24 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Dr. Danny Avula and Richmond City Sheriff Antoinette Irving held a town hall discussion over concerns about COVID-19 in the city’s jails. A half dozen inmates at the Richmond Justice Center spent an hour asking questions.

The town hall was live-streamed on the Richmond City Health District’s Facebook page. The most notable concern of the town hall was stopping the spread of the virus within close quarters, especially with flu on the horizon.

VDH & Richmond City Jail COVID-19 Town Hall

This Town Hall will provide the opportunity to allow a small portion of the local jail population, and the public to get the facts on COVID-19, and to ask questions on how to keep themselves and their fellow inmates safe. Ideally, those inmates who participate will be armed with useful information to share within the facility about everything from stopping the spread of COVID-19 to testing.

Posted by Tavorise Marks on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

"Clinically you can’t distinguish between those two things, the symptom that you get when you get the flu is the same you get when you have COVID,” Avula said. “I think testing will be a really important part of that. Thankfully we have a rapid flu test so you can have an answer within minutes.”

Sheriff Antoinette Irving did not provide an update to the number of positive COVID-19 cases. At the start of the month, there was a total of 91 positive cases at the Richmond Justice Center.

Irving says the residents of the jail are tested regularly thanks to assistant from the Virginia Department of Health and private companies but says the jail is in need of machines that can help sanitize the jail more thoroughly.

“We need the equipment to be able to properly sanitize and disinfect. There are machines out there to be able to do that, but the price tag on those machines that can clean a pod by themselves will cost us about $4,000,” Irving said.

Irving says she is working with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and the Department of Corrections to find alternative holding options to prevent crowding in the jail.

“There have been approximately 400 people who have been placed out on H.E.M., which is home and electronic monitoring pretrial to make sure they don’t have to come into the facility,” Irving said.

Irving says the sheriff’s office plans on holding more virtual town halls with health experts as we enter the flu season to keep residents of the jail informed.

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