INTAKE OF PRISONERS FROM COUNTY JAILS TO STATE FACILITIES STOPPED ON DECEMBER 14 VACCINE FOR INMATES STILL UNCLEAR IN NY STATE
A second inmate at Woodbourne Correctional Facility has died, according to the latest data from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The data also shows that 223 inmates have tested positive since December - the most of any incarcerated population of all prisons operated by New York State, except for the facility in Elmira. With 910 inmates tested at Woodbourne, it represents an infection rate of 24.8 percent. DOCCS data shows that 178 inmates have recovered since early December with 10 tests pending. There were zero cases at the facility from March through November, when testing of the population began.
New York State Department of Corrections spokesperson Thomas Mailey last week told The SullivanTimes that effective December 14, 2020, "due to the increase in COVID-19 cases both inside and outside DOCCS’ correctional facilities, intake of state-ready individuals from county jails has been temporarily suspended. This decision will be reviewed 30 days from the effective date. The minimal intake already scheduled will occur, and movement within the system has been slowed as well, except for medical and other exigent circumstances."
The statement from Mailey was in response to a series of questions about the Covid-19 crisis at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility.
He added that "DOCCS has also recently developed, in consultation with DOH, an asymptomatic surveillance testing plan that will allow for a number of incarcerated individuals from each facility to be tested every weekday, from multiple housing units, in order to avert potential outbreaks and target resources to facilities and housing units identified as a potential problem. This testing began on December 21, 2020."
As for the possibility of inmates receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, Mailey said "DOCCS is continuing to partner with DOH as part of the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Program that was previously announced."
However, there is no definitive vaccination policy yet announced by Governor Cuomo or DOCCS or the Department of Health about inmates. The populations listed under "1A" or "1B" make no direct mention of inmates or corrections officers/staff. (The SullivanTimes previously reported that at least three correction officers at Woodbourne tested positive and were out sick in December).
Some 15 states have prioritized vaccinations of inmates and staff.
"Every facet of the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been guided by facts, scientific data, and the guidance of public health experts at NYS DOH and the CDC, and the work of DOCCS to protect the safety of New York’s corrections staff and incarcerated population is no different. DOCCS is currently following all NYS DOH guidelines regarding congregate settings at each of its facilities, " Mailey said.
On Sunday, Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante expressed concern about the situation at Woodbourne and beyond in an email to The SullivanTimes:
"We aren't through this by a long shot," he said. "We have light at end of the tunnel with vaccine but the months ahead will be very tough. We can't let our guard down and I'm imploring people to maintain social distancing and wear masks. Get tested as often as you can. This is still a serious risk for all residents."