First sign of virus spread in St. Louis County jail as 10 test positive –

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Justice Center

A pod at the St. Louis County Justice Center is shown in this file photo.

CLAYTON — Nine inmates and a staff member at the St. Louis County Justice Center have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days in what health officials said was the first evidence of virus transmission in the jail.

The facility has enjoyed an extremely low incidence of the coronavirus during the seven months of the pandemic, with 37 positive cases among inmates and 24 among employees with nearly 3,000 tests before Friday. All of the previous cases were traced to transmission before the individual entered the jail.

An inmate tested positive during routine screening last Friday, according to a news release from the health department. County health officials tested inmates and staff who had contact with the inmate.

So far, that testing found eight more positive results among inmates, all of whom were asymptomatic of COVID-19, and one employee who was experiencing symptoms. The source of the outbreak was not clear, the news release said.

Jeff Smith, a member of the jail’s advisory board, said more staff members and inmates would be tested on Friday. The jail currently houses 867 inmates; its capacity is 1,232.