LABELLE — The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 in the county jail. 34 inmates have tested positive so far.
We spoke with Erelisha Bell, who video chats with her husband Ivan on a daily basis. He’s been in the county jail for almost two years, but when she spoke with him this past Monday, she said her worst fears were confirmed.
"He was like looking sad and stuff, and I was like what’s wrong? What’s going on? He said I got COVID-19. I was like, just you? He was like no, 35 other people," said Bell.
The Sheriff’s Office disputes that number, saying only 34 inmates are positive for the virus right now, but Bell said either way, it never had to get this bad.
"I called to the jail over a month ago. This could have been avoided. When I find out, someone that was in the cell with him had COVID-19, and I was like, if you all are aware that people in there with COVID-19, why are you all not quarantining them?” said Bell.
The Sheriff’s Office said it is now isolating all of the positive inmates in the jail’s C-Pod, away from the general population. Bell said, she feels helpless knowing her husband is sick, and there’s nothing she can do.
"I pray every night for God to cover him, cover the other inmates in there and everything else, because this is serious. People out here are dying of that disease," said Bell.
Bell’s situation is not unique right now. According to a study by the non-profit Marshall Project released last month, one in every five prisoners nationwide has tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 1,700 have died.
Bell said, she wants the public to put pressure on the Sheriff’s Office.
“They need to call in and they need to check on their people, because if we don’t check on our people, they feel like nobody’s concerned," said Bell.
The Sheriff’s Office said none of the inmates who tested positive are showing symptoms at this time.
We also reached out to other counties for comparison. Charlotte County said none of its inmates have the virus, and Collier County said it only has one inmate who has tested positive.