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  • Rich Klein

EDITORIAL: Now We Know Why Woodbourne Correctional Had Zero Covid Cases For So Long: No Tests

For many months, The SullivanTimes had been trying to find out why Woodbourne Correctional Facility had zero cases of Covid-19.

In fact, it had no cases from March through November, as we continued to monitor the reports from the New York State Department of Corrections & Community Supervision.

It was strange because many other state facilities, including Sullivan Correctional (Fallsburg), Eastern Correctional (Ulster), and Otisville (Orange) all had double digit cases during the same time period. Shawangunk (Ulster) now has 101 cases since the pandemic began.

But, taking a page from President Donald Trump, if you test more people you get more cases.

Well, we now can report that inmates at Woodbourne were not being tested as a whole until November 9, 2020 - eight months after the pandemic began and after tremendous spikes in cases last Spring.

"The Department has also deployed rapid testing for staff," a spokesman told The SullivanTimes early Saturday as part of a larger statement about all the protocols it has followed.

But how interesting that the Department didn't mention WHEN the rapid tests began that we discovered in a habeas corpus petition.

Now, 75 Woodbourne inmates are infected of 600 inmates tested for a positivity rate of 12.5 percent, more than twice the positivity rate of the County.

Remember that more than 600 inmates there regularly interacted with correction officers, many who reportedly have not been wearing masks until very recently, according to one of the two habeas corpus lawsuits filed last week.

And those correction officers went back out into Fallsburg and beyond and now at least three have tested positive and have symptoms.

Even if your position is that you don't care about inmates' health, maybe you care about the officers' well-being and their families and friends who they could infect.

There's a big problem in this state with Covid in the prisons and part of that is due to lax attitudes about protecting inmates, corrections officers and staff.

That starts at the top in Albany with Commissioner Anthony Annucci and filters down to each prison's superintendents and down.

Correction Officers have very difficult jobs and put their lives on the line every day. It's long overdue for Annucci and his superintendents to make sure every CO wears a mask when they can't socially distance from inmates (who, as we understand the policy, are mandated to wear masks when leaving their cells for group gatherings).

Remember, too, that even when the vaccine arrives, it's going to take time to work its way through the population - and that's assuming that at least 75 to 80 percent of people get the vaccine. CO's will likely be near the front of the line for the vaccine, as they should be in coming weeks. That should help reduce the crisis in Woodbourne in January.

But in the meantime, they need to wear masks on the inside to protect their loved ones and other residents on the outside.

It's hard enough right now for the County's short staffed Public Health Department to manage this crisis and a rise in hospitalizations at Garnet Health in Harris due to Covid.

Let's not make their jobs any more harder than they are since they are the ones protecting us from this horrific disease.


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