HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — As of Wednesday evening, 25 offenders at the Harrisonburg Men's Diversion Center had tested positive for the coronavirus.
It's one of 11 confirmed outbreaks in the Central Shenandoah Health District and the only one in a correctional facility.
WHSV spoke with an inmate who said he's concerned about the lack of safety measures being taken within the facility.
"It started here on April 17th," said Christopher Bryk. "It's been a mess in here."
Bryk told WHSV that inmates were allowed to go out into the community and work for weeks after the onset of the virus. He claims the first two confirmed cases at the center were inmates who worked at a poultry plant in the area.
"Originally, they separated us, but a couple days later, the major came back and said he didn't have enough staff and couldn't separate us anymore," Bryk said. "He said we had to go back upstairs to dorm two which is right beside the people with the coronavirus."
Bryk said the living spaces were separated by plastic and duct tape.
After the first round of testing on the 17th, Bryk said he came back negative, but that changed last Friday. He suffered a headache and bad sinuses, but says he's feeling better. Now, he's concerned that staff could be carrying the virus throughout the facility,
"I think a lot of it [the virus] has been spread by correctional officers because they go into the sick dorms and then go back out to the platforms and congregate with each other," he said.
According to the Department of Corrections website, "offenders and staff are required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times, including medical-grade PPE, such as N-95 masks, when appropriate."
Last week, the Virginia General Assembly granted the DOC authority to release non-violent inmates who have one year or less remaining in their sentences.
Anyone convicted of a Class 1 felony or a sexually violent offense is not eligible for consideration. Inmates at the Diversion Center are all convicted of non-violent crimes
The DOC's website outlines an "early release plan," which takes into consideration an inmate's release date, medical condition, and offense history.
Bryk has not heard if he'll be on that list.
"It's very concerning because you have people who aren't doing what they should and taking this seriously," Bryk said.
The Department of Corrections could not be reached for comment.