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Nearly one-third of patients at Plymouth DOC facility test positive for COVID-19, agency reports

Middleton jail also reports dozens of cases

The Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Plymouth.John Tlumacki/Globe staff

As Massachusetts’s health department reported 17 new deaths and 600 additional cases of COVID-19 Saturday, the state Department of Correction said nearly one-third of the patients at a Plymouth facility plus nearly a dozen workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

And on Saturday night, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department announced that 25 inmates, 21 employees, and two contractors at the jail in Middleton had tested positive for coronavirus.

The reports come as the nation’s attention was on President Trump, who tested positive for coronavirus and on Friday afternoon was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.


As of Saturday, there were more than 1 million global deaths due to COVID-19, and more than 34.7 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the US, there have been about 209,000 deaths and more than 7.3 million cases.

A total of 9,292 deaths have occurred in Massachusetts among people with confirmed cases of the disease, the state reported Saturday. There have been 131,814 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.

Also on Saturday, the state’s Department of Correction reported 28 male patients at the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Plymouth have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Eleven employees with Wellpath, the company that handles inmate health care for the Department of Correction, also tested positive for the disease, according to a statement Saturday.

On Sept. 23, the agency said in the statement, a person who had been released from civil confinement at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving the facility.

Department leadership ordered COVID-19 testing for all patients and staff at the facility, the statement said. That testing identified patients with cases of the disease, who were moved to a separate wing in the facility.

The workers who tested positive will not return to their jobs until medically cleared to do so, the statement said.


None required hospital care, and four have been since been released from the substance abuse center, the statement said.

As of Tuesday, there were a total of 97 patients in the Plymouth facility, according to the department. The agency immediately halted new admissions to the facility until further notice, the statement said.

The outbreak at the Plymouth facility was reported Friday by Commonwealth Magazine.

“The Department of Correction’s focus remains on the health and safety of those entrusted to our care at all 16 of our facilities. All MASAC patients have been tested, and all who tested positive are being treated in quarantine,” a department spokesman said in the statement Saturday.

The spokesman said the agency continues strategic testing department-wide consistent with guidance from the Department of Public Health to “ensure that any new cases are identified rapidly and transmission is minimized to the greatest extent possible.”

On Saturday, Boston University announced that six first-year students will face deferred suspensions in connection with a gathering last weekend where underage drinking and violations of COVID-19 guidelines were reported.

An investigation of the gathering, which involved about 20 students, found that the half-dozen who now face disciplinary action were responsible for most of the mask violations, as well as beer found at the scene, according to a BU statement.

Deferred suspension means that a secondary disciplinary violation of any kind will result in the students being suspended for the rest of the semester, the statement said.


In Middleton, the COVID-19 cluster at the jail continued to grow after the North Shore town was moved into the red zone for coronavirus risk last week.

“Like with so many other areas across the state, we are seeing a surge in this highly-contagious illness and this is despite having the most rigorous of health and safety protocols in place,” Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said in a statement.

None of the cases required hospitalization and each case showed mild symptoms, the sheriff’s department said. All inmates and staff are now being tested, the statement said.

Middleton officials reported the virus outbreak at the jail to residents in a statement Wednesday, anticipating the town would be added to the state’s list of high-risk communities later that day.

The outbreak started as a cluster in one ward that had spread to two others in the facility by Wednesday, according to the statement, which was signed by the Middleton town administrator and public health director.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Middleton has reported a total of 218 confirmed COVID-19 cases including 118 inside the jail and 100 in the rest of the community. Six people have died and 92 have recovered, according to the town’s data.

The sheriff’s department said Saturday that no cases had been reported at the department’s Pre-Release Center in Lawrence or at the Women in Transition Program in Salisbury.

The Middleton jail is closed to the general public and movement within the facility has been minimized to slow the spread, the sheriff’s department said.


Officials said since the beginning of the pandemic, the jail has been cleaned and sanitized 24 hours a day, masks have been mandatory, and social distancing has been enforced.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.