Are coronavirus cases increasing on Rikers Island?

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NEW YORK – In April, more than half of Rikers Island was quarantined for exposure to the coronavirus.At the height of the pandemic in the spring, more than 1,400 correctional officers caught the virus. Three inmates died.


What would you like to know

  • Data shows increase in number of Rikers inmates exposed to COVID-19
  • Seven Corrections Department Staff Test Positive In One Week
  • Official says inmates are still in crowded dorms

Now a member of the city’s Corrections Council fears the same thing will happen again – COVID-19 will return to Rikers Island.

Corrections Council member Dr Robert Cohen told NY1 that new data shows the number of inmates quarantined in city prisons for exposure to COVID-19 is on the rise.

According to the city’s Prison Supervisory Board, 46 inmates were in housing units exposed to COVID-19 on November 7. As of November 13, that number had nearly tripled to 132. During the same period, there were seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Correctional Department staff.



Cohen told NY1 he recently visited a prison on Rikers Island and said it “was severely overcrowded”.

“49 men in a 50-bed dorm with half of the beds almost touching, no more than three or four feet apart,” Cohen said. “The Corrections Department has thousands of empty beds. There is no reason to overcrowd people in dormitories. It’s dangerous for them, it’s dangerous for the staff and it will be dangerous for all of us.

He pointed to the board figures that echo this fact. As of November 13, 45% of the prison dormitories on Rikers had more than 75% capacity.

Cohen said that given the further rise in COVID-19, the city should make an effort to test all staff in the Corrections Department on a weekly basis.

NY1 has contacted the Corrections Department for a response and we are awaiting a response.

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