Report: Over 5,000 U.S. corrections officers have COVID-19

"If you look at how it's tracked across the globe, you'll see that this thing runs through a correctional facility like a brush fire," a CO union rep said


By Sarah Calams

NEW YORK — New data shows that over 5,000 U.S. state and federal corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19.

ABC News reported that there have been a total of 5,002 cases, with New York having the most COVID-19 positive cases. 

In this April 16, 2020, photo Sonia Munoz, left, custody assistant, gets her temperature taken at the hospital ward of the Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles.
In this April 16, 2020, photo Sonia Munoz, left, custody assistant, gets her temperature taken at the hospital ward of the Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

"If you look at how it's tracked across the globe, you'll see that this thing runs through a correctional facility like a brush fire, and it doesn't stop until it runs out of people, basically," Andy Potter, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization and founder of One Voice Initiative, said. "We've always said we believe that we were behind the eight ball to begin with."

Federally, over 350 corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19. According to Shane Fausey, national president of the Council of Prison Locals, there are more federal cases, but they remain unreported due to the lack of testing. 

"They're not testing everybody," Fausey said. "As a matter of fact, testing is extremely limited."

In response, the Bureau of Prisons told the news organization they "have developed a letter for staff who are in close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual to provide to the local health department to ensure such persons receive priority COVID-19 testing."

BOP officials said they are unable to give a total number of corrections officers that have been tested, "because staff are typically tested in the community," according to the report.

"In response to COVID-19, the BOP has instituted a comprehensive management approach that includes screening, testing, appropriate treatment, prevention, education and infection control measures," the agency said. "We are deeply concerned for the health and welfare of those inmates who are entrusted to our care, and for our staff, their families, and the communities we live and work in."

Fausey said understaffing in federal and state facilities has been "amplified by the pandemic."

"The pandemic has completely overrun the system; the system wasn't operating normally," Fausey said. "Now you've completely overrun its limited staffing resources. And that's not even including the staffing shortage we had in medical positions. We've had that for quite a few years."

Across the U.S., 38 corrections officers have died from COVID-19, according to the report.

"I'm telling you, if you're tracking what's going on around the United States, it's just going to get worse before it gets better," Potter said. "Just because it clears up in one facility doesn't mean it's not going to spread. We know we know how aggressive it is."

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