MIDDLETON — The Essex County Sheriff's Department said Thursday that it believes it has just 15 active COVID-19 cases, a little less than two weeks after tests of every inmate at the Middleton Jail found 137 positive tests. 

The jail did not re-test inmates; instead, it is relying on Centers for Disease Control guidelines that say those with no symptoms for 10 days after testing positive are considered to be cleared of the virus. 

Of those testing positive, 72% did not show symptoms, officials said. Among those who did show symptoms, none were hospitalized. 

Visits to the jail are still suspended. 

A spike in cases that started last month led to mandatory testing earlier this month of all prisoners, employees and outside providers who work inside the jail. 

“We used testing as an investigatory tool to identify positive cases and isolate those carriers of the virus," said Sheriff Kevin Coppinger in a release. "Once we identified the positive cases, our healthcare provider WellPath monitored each person daily, provided care and comfort, and made the determination of who was medically recovered according to strict state and federal guidelines."

All of the positive prisoners were moved to a single unit. They have been moved back to regular units as each is "cleared" by WellPath. WellPath is a private company paid by the state to provide health care at the jail, as well as two other facilities, the Lawrence Pre-release and Re-entry Center and the Women in Transition program in Salisbury. No cases were reported at those facilities. 

Coppinger said WellPath followed CDC guidelines in making their determination as to who no longer had the virus.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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