State Health Dept Announces New Guidelines To Contain COVID-19 In Prisons


Tuesday, September 22nd 2020, 6:15 pm
By: Jonathan Cooper


State health leaders provided new recommendations on Tuesday to try and cut down on a surge of COVID-19 cases behind prison walls.

"Most of those cases are asymptomatic, but they still require our attention," said Governor Kevin Stitt.

Governor Kevin Stitt provided the update Tuesday along with Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye and Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow, who said COVID-19 within prisons is a complex situation, but one he takes very seriously.

"Every time I learn of a new case, it really makes me sick,” said Crow.

It comes as the DOC is dealing with several hot spots at facilities statewide. As of Tuesday morning, nearly 1,400 inmates currently have the virus, and since the start of the pandemic, nine have died.

"We are not perfect,” said Crow. “And we continue on a daily basis to try and identify resources and new protocols and processes to mitigate this issue."

While Crow said about 98% are asymptomatic, some inmates have other medical conditions that make them vulnerable.

Tuesday, the health department said they're recommending mandatory testing for all 3,300 staff members at least once a month. They also are calling on the DOC to increase surveillance and testing on inmates considered vulnerable. They're working with the DEQ to test wastewater for COVID-19.

The DOC said additionally, they're now providing hazard pay for staff working in prisons considered hot spots of an extra $2 per hour.

There has been an ongoing outbreak at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Muskogee County. The DOC said 780 prisoners there have now recovered.

Related Story: Inmate At Correctional Center Dies After Hospitalization; COVID-19 Outbreak Continues

Another hot spot in Green County has been the Northeast Correctional Center in Vinita. They have 275 active cases and 20 prisoners there have recovered.