Camp Hill, PA -- State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Camp Hill Superintendent Laurel Harry reported today that a total of 24 employees have reported testing positive for COVID-19, with seven cases remaining active. The prison also reports 22 inmate cases, with seven of those cases active.
"All of the inmates that have tested positive for the virus have been isolated and are being cared for by medical staff," Harry said. "The employees, in accordance with the CDC and PA Department of Health recommendations, are isolated at home and must provide a note from their primary care physician to be able to return to work following their isolation."
At all state prisons, when COVID-19 cases present themselves in either inmates or employees, officials act quickly and aggressively to mitigate its impact.
Steps taken by prison officials to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the prison include:
- locking down the entire facility beginning Sept. 15
- staff conducting a deep cleaning of the prison
- pausing the acceptance of new commitments from county prisons for one cycle
- temporarily suspended outgoing transfers to other institutions
- educating staff and inmates about proper handwashing techniques, covering coughs and sneezes, the wearing of masks and reporting influenza like illnesses immediately
SCI Camp Hill has had two recent COVID-19 lockdowns, one that began on Sept. 1, 2020, which involved all housing units and the most recent one, which began on Sept. 15. The Sept. 1 lockdown was gradually lifted beginning on Sept. 9.
"While the most-recent lockdown began Sept. 15, we began delivering weekly commissary again to inmates on Sept. 16, and we issued snack bags on Sept. 18," Harry said. "We also began showers and cell cleaning on Sept. 21, and on Sept. 22, we added access to phones and kiosks for email."
Prison officials are planning to end the institution-wide enhance quarantine on Sept. 29, but that date is subject to change based upon COVID-19 cases of both staff and inmates.
"We are always testing our inmate population, whether it be prior to moving inmates to their home institutions, due to an inmate reporting influenza-like illness or prior to release from prison," Harry said. "It is likely that we will experience additional COVID-19 cases in the future, and with each new case we will continue to work with the DOC's leadership and follow their guidance along with recommendations from the PA Department of Health and the CDC. We will see COVID-related lockdowns as we move forward. Some will be limited to housing units, while others may involve the entire facility. Unfortunately, this is how this prison and other state prisons operate during COVID-19. We are doing all we can to help keep inmates safe through these lockdowns while addressing their needs."
Harry said that puzzle books were made available to inmates as well as other in-cell reading materials. Psychology and chaplain services rounds also have been increased and are available for any who seek them.
Several months ago, the DOC implemented a procedure where it would not accept any new county commitments unless the inmate tested negative for the virus. Once committed to the DOC via SCI Camp Hill, male inmates are quarantined while they are classified. No inmates move throughout the system without first being tested for COVID-19. Only inmates with negative results are transferred throughout the DOC.
The housing units at SCI Camp Hill where the positive inmates previously resided are under enhanced quarantine and are following all appropriate protocols, including increased temperature and symptom checks by medical staff. Inmates in these units are carefully kept in small cohorts to better control any possible spread of the virus.
Staff are being educated on the quarantine via emails from administrative staff and at departmental meetings. Housing unit staff are educating inmates with daily updates, and administrative staff are making housing unit visits to keep inmates and staff informed. Information also is being provided on the dedicated inmate TV channel and consists of videos from the superintendent and administrative staff.
Finally, no one is permitted inside the prison if they can't pass the enhanced screening started at all state prisons in March. The screening includes a series of questions regarding possible exposure to COVID-19 and a temperature check.
To learn more about our efforts to mitigate COVID-19 in our system, please visit our website at
https://www.cor.pa.gov/Pages/COVID-19.aspx. A dashboard is also available on this page that is updated daily.
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