5,000+ correctional officers across the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19
As the novel coronavirus ravages prisons around the country, over 5,000 state and federal correctional officers have tested positive for the virus, data compiled by ABC News shows.
There have been 5,002 cases, including over 4,600 state correctional officers that have contracted the virus, with New York being the state with the most correctional officer cases.
“If you look at how it’s tracked across the globe, you’ll see that this thing runs through a correctional facility like a brushfire, and it doesn’t stop until it runs out of people, basically,” Andy Potter, the executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization and the founder of the One Voice Initiative, told ABC News. “We’ve always said we believe that we were behind the eight ball to begin with.”
Potter, whose union represents over 6,000 officers in Michigan, stressed that governors weren’t doing a bad job, but they could “lead a better plan of conversation and communication with those corrections front-line staff.”
The New York Department of Corrections, in a press release, thanked corrections officers for their service during this week’s National Corrections Officer week.
Federally, over 350 officers have tested positive for the virus.
Shane Fausey, the national president of the Council of Prison Locals, told ABC News that there are likely more federal cases of officers, but they aren’t reported because of the lack of testing.
“They’re not testing everybody,” Fausey said. “As a matter of fact testing is extremely limited.”
The Bureau of Prisons told ABC News that 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. Because staff are typically tested in the community, we are unable to provide the total number of correctional officers that have been tested.”
On the state level, testing in Michigan is also a problem, officials say.
“We’re struggling with getting officers tested,” said Byron Osborn, president of the Michigan Corrections Organization. “We believe that the state … [should] be proactive and kind of try to get in front of this too, so the rest of our facilities aren’t impacted. We’re advocating for staff to be tested.”
In Nebraska, a total of 5 correctional officers have tested positive for the virus.