Amid spike in prison coronavirus cases, Governor Whitmer orders safety tests and protocols

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LANSING, MI – Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Saturday signed an executive order establishing new coronavirus security and testing protocols in Michigan correctional facilities through the end of September.

The order requires incarcerated persons to be tested for COVID-19 upon entry, transfer and release from jails, prisons and juvenile detention centers, and resumes the suspension of the transfer of persons from prisons to prisons unless certain harm reduction and testing protocols are established inside the prison.

These protocols include screening all people entering or leaving an institution, testing inmates with symptoms of COVID-19, providing employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), and requiring masks and social distancing for inmates. and the staff.

Staff are not required to undergo tests before entering or leaving work, but their temperatures are taken and recent travel information is recorded.

“In light of the continuing threat of COVID-19 to prison and prison populations, and the increased availability of testing in our state, it is now reasonable and necessary to require entry, transfer and release testing inmates in Michigan prisons, and to allow transfers only from prisons that implement comparable testing protocols, ”the revised Executive Order 2020-170 read.

The order will be in effect until September 30.

The announcement comes as the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), which oversees the state’s prison system, has 435 active COVID-19 cases, its biggest peak since the spring.

Most of these cases are at Muskegon Correctional Facility, where an outbreak began three weeks ago.

RELATED: Coronavirus rises again in Michigan prisons, with biggest outbreak since spring

Whitmer’s first executive order regarding MDOC facilities came in March, as the virus began to spread in the state of Michigan

The order temporarily suspended the transfer of people from prisons to prisons. These transfers have briefly resumed and are once again suspended. For prisons that have resumed transfers, this latest ordinance comes into effect on September 8.

RELATED: Governor Whitmer takes action to protect prisons and detention centers from coronavirus

Starting next Monday, a detention center can request an inspection to determine if it is following the necessary security and testing protocols to transfer prisoners.

Risk reduction protocols include screening all people entering and leaving a given facility by taking their temperature and recording travel information; provide staff with PPE; increase traffic by opening windows and using fans; providing personal hygiene products, including soap and water, to detainees; regularly clean and disinfect the installation.

Prisons are required to coordinate with local public health services, informing them of suspected or confirmed cases.

Visits to prisons and prisons are suspended, with the exception of lawyer visits, and any detainees showing symptoms of COVID-19 – such as fever, sore throat, uncontrolled cough, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, severe headache and loss of taste or smell – should be isolated and tested.

Prisons will also need to keep documentation of an inmate’s testing history.

Detainees will face extensive testing requirements upon admission, within 72 hours of any transfer, and within 72 hours of release.

In the event of a generalized epidemic, tests will be required on a continuous basis, “coupled with contact tracing, in coordination with the local public health service”, indicates the order. Prisoners who test positive should not be transferred unless 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms, 24 hours since the fever disappeared, without the use of antipyretic drugs, and other symptoms have improved.

The ordinance also “strongly encourages” the early release of certain members of the prison population, including the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, those who are pregnant and those approaching their release date. Persons whose offenses were traffic violations, failure to appear or failure to pay are also considered eligible for early release in these circumstances.

RELATED: Protesters urge Whitmer to release Michigan inmates at risk of coronavirus in state prisons

Those who violate their parole will not be incarcerated unless this facility has been found to comply with protocols.

People in prison are considered particularly at risk of contracting COVID-19, due to the tight spaces in many prisons and prisons and the shared nature of life within their walls. At the start of the pandemic, protesters called on Whitmer to release low-risk prisoners in recognition of that risk.

To date, 4,351 incarcerated people and 435 MDOC employees have tested positive for COVID-19. These figures include the deaths of 68 prisoners and three prison officers, according to the MDOC.

COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS

In addition to washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, authorities recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone can carry the virus.

Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet from others and work from home, if possible.

Use disinfectant wipes or disinfectant cleaning sprays on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, countertops) and take hand sanitizer with you when you go places like stores.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses when in crowded indoor and outdoor public spaces. See an explanation of what this means here.

Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/data/.

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