Coronavirus outbreak inside Maryland detention facility sparks class action lawsuit

In one case, a woman new to the facility was held in a cell flanked on either side by cells containing male inmates who had recently tested positive for the coronavirus. In another case, a male inmate had to stay in the same cell with a cellmate who clearly showed symptoms of infection, including a cough and fever.

“I slept with my mask on,” the inmate was quoted as saying in the complaint made on behalf of eight inmates who either recently tested positive or have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to infection. “I tried to clean my cell. But I couldn’t really disinfect it. “

Along with nursing homes and other facilities in the community, prisons and prisons in the Washington area have been badly hit by the virus, prompting officials to include all of these settings in priority lists for vaccine doses.

But some prisons and prisons haven’t received doses yet, proponents say.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, declined to comment on the allegations on Saturday. The complaint named Department Secretary Robert L. Green and Chesapeake overseer Calvin Wilson as co-defendants.

But Vernarelli said in a statement that the state’s 21 prisons are following Maryland Health Department guidelines to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in congregation environments, including frequent testing, isolating those infected and restricting movement among inmates.

“Like all DPSCS facilities, CDF follows strict COVID guidelines and protocols from the Department of Health and is subject to regular compliance audits,” Vernarelli said of the Chesapeake facility.

169 inmates and 80 staff at the Chesapeake site were infected as of Saturday, according to the DPSCS website. A total of 4,067 inmates and 2,073 employees were infected in the entire state detention system.

John Fowler, an attorney on the civil rights advocate committee, said the large number of infections underscores the careless attitude state correction officials still have towards the virus almost a year after the pandemic began.

Fowler said advocacy groups have repeatedly asked Green and Wilson to do more to protect the Chesapeake detainees without responding.

“We know the guard saw what was going on,” he said. “A year after Covid came on stage, this shouldn’t happen.”

Other prisons in the region have also seen an increase in infections recently.

In Virginia, inmates at Rappahannock Regional Prison were locked there last month after a coronavirus outbreak. State health officials recently said they are isolating inmates at this facility and are working on starting vaccinations.

In the lawsuit against Chesapeake, officials were criticized for using solitary confinement as a tool to prevent further infection, arguing that doing so was damaging to the inmates’ mental health.

The complaint is aimed at a court order according to which the protection of mental health must be introduced in cases in which isolation occurs and the inmates must be offered vaccinations immediately.

The lawsuit also seeks a judge asking officials to distribute masks and other protective gear and to provide detainees with liquid hand soap and paper towels so they can wash their hands regularly.

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