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Officials search for solutions as cases spike at Metro Corrections

COVID-19 cases are rising at LMDC, leading jail officials to try new testing measures. One mother, whose son awaits trial, worries it won't be enough.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — COVID-19 cases are on the rise at Louisville's downtown jail. Officials say cases were in the single-digits just a few weeks ago.

They say they’re switching up the fight, but one mother worries it won’t be enough.

Patricia Adams hasn't seen her son in months and is terrified what might happen in the meantime.

"I have worried about my son getting this death sentence for over a year now,” she said.

Adams's son is awaiting trial Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. COVID cases there are spiking. 21 inmates in the jail are positive, compared to single-digit numbers last month.

RELATED: Metro Corrections reports COVID outbreak as inmate population increases

Jail officials are taking new steps, testing people on intake and transitioning to rapid testing.

"The benefit of that is we can determine right away if someone is positive,” LMDC Assistant Director Steve Durham said.

Durham says the strategy is to identify cases, isolate them, and encourage vaccination, something that's been done for 1109 inmates.

But rising jail populations makes social distancing nearly impossible. 1,610 people are being held and capacity is only 1,353.

"There's twice as many people that should be in the dorm,” Adams said. “There’s 41 people in a dorm that supposed to hold 20. So they sleep on mats on the table, between the tables on the floor.”

The count of correctional officers managing that population is shrinking. FOP 77 President Officer Daniel Johnson says the force is down nearly 100 people. Full staff is around 420.

"We want to see them step up. We want to see the city open up their checkbook. Make it a priority,” he said of raising officer pay to attract new recruits.

Advocates say releasing inmates would relieve the pressure.

"The only people that should be held is if it's absolutely proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they present a risk to the public,” Shameka Parrish-Wright, operations manager of The Bail Project and mayoral hopeful, said.

Early in the pandemic, judges did just that. As Durham fights the spread, he's asking the courts to try it again.

RELATED: Kentucky AG discusses releasing inmates amid COVID-19 crisis

"They may be a little weary of our ask but it's important for us to continue the ask,” he said.

A glimmer of hope for Adams, desperately waiting for her own homecoming.

"I just feel invisible. And so does my son for that matter,” she said.

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