Essex County Sheriff Coppinger Says COVID-19 Testing Has Limited Virus Spread at Prisons

Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Most prison inmates in Essex County who tested positive for the coronavirus have recovered and a dozen others have shown only minor symptoms.

Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said last week 42 out of 54 inmates testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered, while 12 remaining cases are showing only mild symptoms.

Coppinger said, “We have been aggressively testing people in our custody and that has led to better outcomes in terms of prevention and treatment.” He thanked staff of Wellpath and the state Department of Public Health for their help and guidance.

To date, 116 inmates tested for coronavirus, with 64 testing negative. Coppinger said he knew aggressive testing would result in a higher number of cases, but also pointed to the number of those who have recovered as evidence of why testing is important.

“This testing is a tremendous tool we use to keep our staff and incarcerated population safe. As soon as an inmate tests positive, we are able to adjust our workings to reduce exposure to others,” Coppinger said.

Other precautions include keeping prisoners under lockdown to limit movement and mitigate exposure, deep cleaning around the clock, installation of hand-sanitizing stations, use of protective masks by all staff and inmates, a health screening process for all staff which includes having their temperatures taken and monitoring new inmates in an isolated unit for 14 days.

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