COXSACKIE — An eightfold spike in the number of COVID cases in Greene County has been traced to the Greene Correctional Facility, according to Greene County Public Health.
In a week’s time, the county went from five COVID-19 cases to 43. Of the 43 cases, 31 originated from Greene Correctional in Coxsackie, according to Public Health.
The prison had 30 active cases on Thursday, state Department of Correction and Community Supervision spokesman Thomas Mailey said in a statement.
“These individuals were immediately isolated and a contact trace was conducted and those identified were quarantined and tested,” Mailey said. “Mass testing of all asymptomatic incarcerated individuals at Greene Correctional Facility is currently underway.”
Coxsackie Correctional has had one positive case, according to doccs.ny.gov. Hudson Correctional Facility has had no cases.
Throughout all the state correctional facilities, 1,355 employees have tested positive, with about 97% recovering and returning to work. DOCCS is unable to provide a breakdown of staff cases by facility, citing privacy reasons, Mailey said. Of the 796 inmate cases statewide, 756 have recovered.
A total of five staff members, 17 inmates and four parolees have died from the virus across the state, according to doccs.ny.gov.
“Individuals displaying symptoms are immediately isolated and tested,” Mailey said. “If a positive case is confirmed, a contact trace is conducted and those identified are quarantined and tested. Any individual that is COVID-19 positive or in quarantine as part of a contact trace is not allowed a visit.”
Inmates who test positive are isolated for a minimum of 14 days until their symptoms are gone and the individual has had no fever for 72 hours without the aid of medicine, Mailey said.
“It is critical that both staff and incarcerated individuals continue to follow the protocols in place, which include the mandatory use of masks for all staff, visitors and incarcerated individuals when participating in activities,” Mailey said.
In addition to wearing masks, staff are also required to complete health questionnaires. DOCCS has sought to reduce staff density by offering telecommuting, compressed workweeks, alternate work weeks and staggering shifts, when applicable.
More than 18,245 inmates in state correctional facilities have been tested to date. Criteria for testing includes all inmates showing symptoms, all inmates in quarantine as a result of exposure, all inmates housed in medical units, inmates age 55 or older, all pregnant and postpartum inmates, and all inmates at Shawangunk, Wallkill, Green Haven, Fishkill, Albion, Bedford Hills, Taconic, Orleans, Wende, Attica, Wyoming, Collins, Gowanda, Lakeview, Rochester and Groveland correctional facilities. Mass testing is currently underway at Watertown, Clinton and Greene correctional facilities.
“We continue to comply with CDC guidance, and in consultation with DOH, evaluate all options for additional testing as part of our multi-faceted response,” Acting DOCCS Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said Sept. 22 at a Senate hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on prisons and jails. “The Department has continually expanded the pool of incarcerated individuals being tested, which include those incarcerated individuals who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, all incarcerated individuals who are quarantined as a result of a contact trace, as well as a variety of targeted testing cohorts.”
Visitation resumed at the maximum-security prisons Aug. 5 and in all other facilities Aug. 8. Visitors are also subjected to health screenings and temperature checks.
Additional communication options have been made available to inmates and their loved ones during the pandemic. Inmates are permitted two free phone calls per week, as well as two free stamps per week to use for secure messaging, a free pre-paid stamp to respond to any messages sent on Wednesdays and a free subscription to Newsstand. An inmate’s eligibility to use these services may be impacted if they are being disciplined.
A number of inmate programs have been gradually reintroduced including mental health programming, Step-Down programs, sex offender counseling treatment, ASAT, facility orientation and transitional services, trauma programs, Thinking for Change, Moving On, Fresh Start 21, Advanced Aggression Program, Veteran’s Residential Theraputic Program, Living Safely Without Violence, Aggression Replacement Training, Inmate Program Associate Training and general library services.
DOCCS canceled warrants for about 1,100 parole violators with low-level technical violations in March, provided the parolee had housing available and their release did not present a risk to public safety. Adolescent offenders were transferred from Adirondack Correctional Facility to Hudson Correctional Facility, and inmates age 60 and older were relocated to Adirondack, due to the North Country’s lower infection rate.
Inmates transferring to a state facility from a county jail must test negative for the virus before being transferred, Mailey said.
Additionally, the county jail cannot have a positive COVID-19 case, the inmate cannot be on quarantine and the inmate will be subject to a medical assessment and temperature check prior to being accepted at the correctional facility.