Leaders ask feds for machines to test for COVID-19 at 2 prisons in West Virginia

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 4:58 PM EDT
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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley have asked the federal government to better equip two in-state prisons currently in use as quarantine sites for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

In a joint letter to the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday, the three West Virginia Republicans sought to secure point-of-care testing machines for federal prisons in Gilmer and Preston counties.

The machines, which Azar recently offered the U.S. Senate, can be operated in the field and provide results in as little as five minutes.

“If these machines are good enough for the Senate, then they are good enough for our heroes on the actual front lines of this crisis—including our correctional guards, nurses, and staff,” the leaders' letter said.

“Our correctional officers and staff already face dangers every day in the line of duty; dangers that they know, understand, and can respond to,” the letter said. “But exposing them to an infectious agent like COVID-19 without warning forces them to fly blind. They deserve better. And because COVID-19 is so virulently contagious, depriving officers and staff of this information doesn’t just threaten them, but threatens everyone in Gilmer County and communities like it. The federal government should do everything in its power to deliver on its promises to the West Virginians who keep us safe, and make sure that all inmates transferred into the facilities we maintain are appropriately screened for COVID-19.”

Last weekend, it was reported that one of the inmates transferred into the prisons in Gilmer County had tested positive for COVID-19.

“In times of crisis, it becomes all the more important to ensure that we are giving our first responders the back-up and support they deserve,” the leaders wrote. “The Department of Health and Human Services can make great strides towards this goal by helping to secure more testing equipment to the Bureau of Prisons.”

You can read the letter by clicking on the link to the right of this article.