Washington DC’s prison population first encountered the coronavirus weeks ago. In mid-April, the first DC inmate died from covid-19. Since, numbers continue to rise. Over the weekend, DC prisons counted 2 more confirmed positive cases among their inmates.
The men are 28 and 36 years old. Their diagnoses bring the total case count among DC prisons to 124. Among those, the DC Department of Corrections said 72 made recoveries. The remaining 52 receive treatment in isolation, awaiting certain milestones to return to their usual routines.
Staff at the prisons follow guidelines laid out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention while treating inmate cases. First, staff remove inmates with covid-19 to prevent further spread of the disease. Then, medical staff oversee their developments.
Once they exhibit recovery signs, medical staff assess their ability to return from isolation. Their assessment includes whether the inmate’s fever abated for a minimum of 72 hours without medication. Additionally, 7 days must lapse from the first sign of symptoms, with improvements taking place from those symptoms.
DC DOC said they enlisted the help of health organizations to trace contact and protect staff and inmates alike. However, one case draws criticism and questions the adherence to protocol.
Prisons Face Potential Spread from Staff Missteps
In an email correspondence reported on by NBC News4, a corrections officer revealed a critical misstep in one confirmed case. It told of an inmate with covid-19 that remained among the general population of the prison for hours before removal.
The CO stated in the email the inmate “was laying on his bunk and sweating profusely” despite medical staff identifying him as a covid case. The email proceeds to explain how the inmate received orders to pack up and prepare to move into isolation.
At that time, the inmate responded he could not, given his present condition. Subsequently, medical staff determined the inmate required ambulance transport directly to the hospital.
Despite the CO’s account, a spokesperson for DC DOC refuted claims staff ordered the inmate’s removal prior to his emergency transfer to the hospital. “We take the safety of those in our care and those who work in our facility very seriously and will continue to take appropriate measures to protect their well-being,” they said.
The inmate’s lawyer paints a different picture. “He said that there was no social distancing at the jail, that he was afraid and, also, that he didn’t feel well,” she said.