FAYETTE COUNTY (KDKA) — Fayette County officials held a press conference on Friday to discuss changes implemented after multiple employees and inmates tested positive for Coronavirus at the Fayette County Prison.
According to Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower, three correctional officers and two prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. The names of these individuals will not be released to the public due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) restrictions.
Bower said that officials with the County Prison Board were alerted to the outbreak at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday of this week. An emergency meeting was held at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning to discuss and implement preventative measures to halt COVID-19’s spread among correctional officers, inmates and other staff.
“The discussion of that meeting centered the welfare of the correctional officers and the inmates situated at the Fayette County Prison,” Bower said. “At that time, the discussion was obviously about welfare–and I’m going to use the word outbreak–of an issue concerning COVID-19 in the Fayette County Prison. At that time, we were told by [the] Acting Warden…there were two officers who had tested positive. Since that time on Wednesday of this week, we have found out that another officer has tested positive. Additionally, we have also been informed that two prisoners have tested positive.”
Bower says that they just received new portal decontamination units by AeroClave that were purchased in March this week. One of the units is located at the prison, while the other is being used for cleaning police vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks. It will also be used to clean offices at the Fayette County Courthouse.
Bower says commonly touched surfaces like switches and door handles are being sanitized and that social distancing protocols are being observed. Inmates and all staff are required to wear face coverings. Visitations and public admittance into the prison have been suspended for at least two and a half weeks. Inmates are teleconferencing with family members, attorneys and bail bondsmen. Only correctional officers and other staff will be entering and exiting the facility.
Bower confirmed that contact tracing is being utilized once an inmate or staff member tests positive for the virus. Testing is available at the county prison. Any inmates who test positive will and have been moved to a separate area from other inmates. There is also an isolated area for inmates awaiting test results. If they test negative, the inmates can return to the general population of inmates among the facility. Correctional officers who have tested positive are not currently working at any of the facilities and are quarantining at home.
“No prisoner will be brought over for any kind of hearing. There will be no preliminary hearings where there is an inmate from the Fayette County Jail taken to the magistrate’s office or to central court,” Bower said. “We’re trying to work out a system where we may be able to use either Zoom, Skype or another procedure so that the inmate or the defendant, if they are in jail, can be at that via telecom Zoom or Skype. That would include the inmate having to waive their right to be present in person. Additionally, in regard to that also, we are continuing to have hearings in this courthouse for criminal matters but no criminal trials will be had in August of 2020.”
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