State Department of Corrections announces virus mitigation efforts

From staff reports

The state Department of Corrections announced additional steps it is taking to keep the incarcerated population protected against COVID-19.

Effective Monday, incarcerated individuals will be assigned to housing units based on their vaccination status, according to a DOC news release. Additionally, the release said, in-person visitation for the unvaccinated inmate population will be suspended until further notice.

“As we learn more about the highly contagious nature of the virus and its variants, it is critically important for the DOC to take proactive measures to keep our population safe,” DOC Secretary John Wetzel said.

“Those who are vaccinated are protected by the vaccine, and we are working to protect those who choose not to be vaccinated by limiting contact with potential carriers of the virus.”

Access to education, programming, and other services will not be impacted by the potential change in housing assignment, the release said. No-cost video visits remain an alternative to in-person visitation, and additional video terminals will be installed in unvaccinated units.

According to the release, about 78% of the state prison population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19; 21%, or 7,804 individuals, are not vaccinated. According to the release, the total number of active COVID-19 cases at state correctional institutions is 47 as of Tuesday. However, a recent uptick in cases at SCI Phoenix, coupled with emerging information on COVID-19 variants, prompted the changes.

Up-to-date information on COVID-19 within the DOC system is available on the agency’s COVID-19 dashboard.