Corrections facilities prepare to deal with COVID-19

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HARRISBURG, Pa, (WHTM) –  So what keeps Corrections Secretary John Wetzel up at night in a Coronavirus world? Everything.  

There are nearly 46,000 inmates in state prisons and so far none have Coronavirus. A miracle?  

“A miracle may be a little strong but we’re pretty fortunate,” says Wetzel.  

Critics say inmates are sitting ducks for a disease that spreads quickly among people living together, to closely.  

“I think it’s a two edged sword. I think right now because this is a threat from the outside in it’s a strength that we’re a closed system. Once it gets in, that strength becomes a weakness,” says Wetzel.  

He went on to say there are quarantined areas and medical staff at every facility. 

“We have several flu outbreaks every year so this is not new to us.” 

Some 12,000 prisoners have been identified as medically vulnerable to Coronavirus, according to Wetzel. And they are getting enhanced screening, but reformers have called for their outright release during this pandemic.  

“We gotta be cautious with broad statements. I think currently we have zero cases here. I think public safety and rule of law is still a key part of our response.” 

Wetzel says he would rather focus on those who have served their time and are getting out on schedule.  

“We’re not panicking, we’re not locked down system wide.” 

Many family members are frustrated they can’t visit inmates but Wetzel says that’s to keep everybody safe and they have been given free phone calls and are getting to see their families over the internet.  

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