Westchester County Jail officials: No COVID-19 cases reported among inmates, jail staff
For the first time in months, Westchester County Jail in Valhalla is restarting in-person non-contact visitation on Nov. 16.
Corrections officials say coronavirus cases are under control in Westchester, despite new concerns of cases rising both in New York and nationally.
At last check, none of the 600-plus inmates and 700-plus staff at the jail had the virus, according to the department.
The department agreed to let News 12 inside the intake area to show how they screen new inmates.
"When we started finding out about COVID, we had to really come up with some strong protocols on quarantining inmates and working with medical,” says Leandro Diaz of Westchester County Jail’s operation department.
Strict protocols begin with booking, where medical staff perform health screenings and check the temperatures of incoming inmates.
The jail also implements reduced-capacity protocols at all its holding cells.
Inmates are then brought into quarantine isolation areas. There are separate floors for new inmates who are also tested on their third day at the facility.
If they test negative on their seventh day, they are then relocated to a secondary unit. When they are in that unit, only one inmate can be out one at a time for one hour to take a shower and take care of other personal things.
"We want to kind of limit the amount of exposure they have between each other,” says Diaz. "We increased the pay for our inmate workers just to incentivize more cleaning."
Then inmate workers who have already been pre-screened, are healthy and tested negative, clean and disinfect surfaces before the next inmate is allowed out.
Inmates are tested on their third day in jail.
The process is lengthy and labor-intensive, but once inmates make it through a 14-day period, they are let into the general population. Each housing unit is at 50% capacity to social distance.
Correction officials say they only had seven positive cases stemming from new inmates, but the virus did not spread outside those individuals.