COVID-19 in a Washington Prison

COVID-19 has got everyone in TRU freaking out, including me.

There are protective measures in place, but they feel so insufficient. Partly because we are in Snohomish County, Washington, the epicenter of of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US.

C/O’s have their temperature taken before they come in to work. They’ve been authorized to have unlimited sick leave with no repercussions so that the sick will stay home. An old defunct unit (TRU-E) has been set aside as a quarantine sick ward. Unit porters bleach high touch surfaces multiple times a day. All volunteer activities (both religious and secular) have been canceled.

We are scared. The unit I am on is mostly older folks, age 60 and up. If the virus comes here, most of them will not make it.

So far there are roughly a dozen people in TRU-E unit on quarantine status, and according to the housing roster for our unit, there is one person on quarantine in TRU-B unit. The prison, for official reasons, maintains the fiction that there are no COVID-19 cases here.

In the last two days we have been locked down five times for the C/O’s to escort a sick incarcerated person to medical and test them for COVID-19. Each time we hold our collective breath. Is it?

Currently A/B unit of WSR is on a 14 day quarantine lockdown because a C/O came to work and tested positive for COVID-19. A near miss which has me worried sick for John. That’s where he lives.

I have taken to mostly staying in my cell and staying away from people. This limits my potential exposure to the following:

+ morning pill line
+ lunch and dinner meals
+ afternoon mail call
+ going out to big yard every other day

It’s not really possible to practice social distancing here, something about having to stand in line for literally everything. It doesn’t help much if while I maintain a two meter (six foot) gap between me and the person in front of me, the person behind me insists on (sometimes literally) breathing down my neck. So I end up going to the back of the line, a lot.

A few days ago I employed this strategy and it backfired horribly. While waiting for pill line they called a code for someone being sick in D unit. I had to rush to get out of the way as the person passed within three meters (nine feet) of me while not wearing a mask. C/O’s then directed the thirty-some people in pill line to sit in the chow hall until the code was cleared, an hour and a half later. I have no way to know if I was exposed, and no way to get tested. So now I’m self isolating as much as possible for two reasons, self preservation and, just in case I was exposed, to keep others safe.

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