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Essex County Sherriff's Department suspends visitation at Middleton jail amid COVID outbreak

The Essex County Sheriff's Department has suspended visits at the Middleton House of Correction after a coronavirus outbreak.

There are 57 active cases among those in custody, and 8 cases among staff, a spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson said most of those who tested positive do not have symptoms and more than half of the prisoners who are positive are vaccinated.

"Due to the uptick, we have undergone a liberal and broad testing of our housing units over the last two days," the statement said. "To mitigate further exposures, we are continuing with our 24-hour preventative and cleaning protocols and limiting movement within the facility."

Before this outbreak, the jail had not reported a positive case of the virus since February.

Sheriff Kevin Coppinger suspended public and video visits at the jail but said prisoners are provided with tablets to make phone calls. He says no-contact attorney visits are permitted.

He said about 68% of the total jail population is vaccinated and the vaccine is offered to those in custody. More than 1,000 men are currently held at the jail.

According to reports filed with the state Supreme Judicial Court, one prisoner at the Middleton jail has died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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