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SCI Camp Hill provides update on COVID-19 cases in inmates

“All of the inmates that have tested positive for the virus have been isolated and are being cared for by medical staff,” Superintendent Laurel Harry said.
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CAMP HILL, Pa. — On Wednesday the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill released a COVID-19 update.

Superintendent Laurel Harry reported a total of 24 employees that tested positive for COVID-19, with seven cases remaining active.

The prison also reported 22 inmate cases, of which seven are 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.”

Steps taken by prison officials to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the prison include:

  • locking down the entire facility beginning September 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 of the lockdowns began on September 1 and involved all housing units, until the lockdown was gradually lifted starting on September 9, officials say.

The most recent lockdown began on September 15.

RELATED: Department of Corrections announces five-level plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions on state prisons

"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.”

Officials say they're planning on ending the quarantine on September 29 but that date depends on both staff and inmate COVID-19 cases.

“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.”

Puzzle books, other in-cell reading materials, psychology, and chaplain services are available for inmates to use if needed, according to Harry.

Several months ago, the Department of Corrections 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.

Prison officials say the housing units at SCI Camp Hill where previous COVID-19 positive inmates have lived in are kept under quarantine and following protocols such as increased temperature and symptom checks by medical staff.

Staff is 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.

In addition, no one is permitted inside the prison if they can't pass an enhanced health screening that includes questions regarding possible exposure to COVID-19, and a temperature check, officials say.