Inmate at Northwest Correctional Facility tests positive

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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) An inmate at the Northwest Correctional Facility in St. Albans has now tested positive for COVID-19 and the facility is in full lockdown.

Officials at Gov. Scott's COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday said the inmate started showing symptoms early Monday and was tested and placed in a negative pressure cell, but at least one family member of another inmate fears it's too late for her loved one.

"He's very scared and very worried," said Janice Bradley, whose brother, Jay Orost, is behind bars at the Northwest Correctional Facility. Orost is accused of several sex assaults on multiple victims, including at least one minor. He hasn't had a trial yet.

"My concern is what's going to end happening is he's going to have a death sentence," Bradley said.

She says Orost has emphysema and is at high risk of complications if he should get COVID-19. There are 198 other inmates inside the St. Albans facility. They're all in lockdown, getting meals and meds in their cells to limit exposure.

"Corrections has been for nearly a month now preparing for this possibility of a positive inmate test," said Vt. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. He says they've put a number of procedures in place including locking down all state prisons to visitors, screening inmates for symptoms three times a day and taking employees' temperatures before they go to work.

"Since the outset of the response we have put measures in place to protect our inmates and staff," Smith said.

Three staff have also tested positive at the St. Albans prison. Contact tracing continues, but right now officials don't believe infected staff had any contact with the positive inmate. Now as a precaution all inmates and staff will be tested by Thursday. "We won't hesitate to retest if needed," Smith said.

Vermont's inmate population has been reduced from around 1,670 to about 1,435 over the last month because of fewer prosecutions and routine releases. But Bradley is among those that fear decisions on who to release aren't being made quickly enough.

"The courts are moving so slowly that I'm afraid by the time when it's decided he can be released on bail or not, it's going to be too late," she said.

Corrections officials say they are carefully looking at who is eligible for release and who does not pose a risk to the community.