The State Department of Corrections, which first suspended most in-person visits in mid-March, reopened prisons to visitors in August. New York then restricted visits to prisons in designated hot spots from October, but most prisons remained open for visits.
By September 24, the prison system had seen a total of 774 confirmed cases. Since then, New York City prisons have recorded three times as many new cases of the virus: more than 2,170, including more than 1,000 in December alone.
State prisons have reported the deaths of three inmates with COVID-19 since mid-December, according to data reported by the State Department of Corrections.
This includes the Clinton County maximum security prison in the state’s North Country, the Woodbourne Correctional Facility medium security prison in the Hudson Valley, and the Auburn Correctional Facility maximum security prison in central New York City. .
Inmate advocates have been calling for months for regular mass testing of inmates, better social distancing, fewer people behind bars and greater access to personal protective equipment. They argue that the visitation restrictions haven’t done enough to address these issues, as well as the challenges of staff getting in and out of the bike.
“Tens of thousands of New Yorkers in prison and their families are in desperate need of Governor Cuomo to take concrete action to stop COVID-19 behind bars,” various prison advocacy groups wrote in a statement.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo argued from the start that the state’s strategy of testing symptomatic or exposed inmates avoided large prison outbreaks in the spring. Her senior assistant, Melissa DeRosa, said in October that the state plans to test all detainees by the end of November.
Tents have been set up in the courtyard of San Quentin State Prison to treat inmates with COVID-19. At least 1,011 cases of the virus have been reported.
His office and the State Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to several questions on Wednesday, including whether all inmates must wear masks, how many masks they are provided, how many are hospitalized and whether the state has tested all of them. detainees by November.
Cuomo said the decline in the state’s prison population helped prevent the spread. New York had around 35,300 inmates in December, up from 44,300 in January.
The state’s 52 prisons are currently reporting nearly 770 active cases of COVID-19 and eight prisons have 5% of inmates currently positive. Woodbourne, who suspended his visits on December 16, has around 120 confirmed cases out of around 800 detainees.
New York County prisons, which are not state controlled, also reported outbreaks this fall, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the state Corrections Commission.
As of September 21, county jails have reported more than 850 confirmed cases among staff and at least 1,050 among inmates.
This includes several prisons in hard-hit central and western New York City: Monroe County Jail alone reported 350 infections among around 700 inmates, in addition to nearly 110 staff who tested positive. .
Cattaraugus and Chautauqua County prisons reported infections in 63 out of approximately 110 inmates and 89 out of 190 inmates, respectively.
Prisons have also reported two deaths of prison staff with COVID-19 in New York City and Suffolk County.