An inmate from a New York federal prison has tested positive for the coronavirus, making it the first confirmed case in the federal prison system in the United States.
The detainee, who is imprisoned at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, complained of chest pain Thursday, a few days after arriving at the facility, the Federal Prisons Office told The Associated Press. He was taken to a local hospital and tested for COVID-19, officials said.
The detainee was released from the hospital on Friday and returned to prison, where he was immediately placed in segregation, the agency said. The Prisons Office learned on Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Confirmation of the first case of coronavirus in the US federal penitentiary system comes as Canadian prisons take precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Health officials have warned of the dangers of prison epidemics, which are ideal environments for viruses, for more than a decade: inmates share small cells with strangers, use toilets a few feet from their reads and are gathered in the day from the rooms where they spend hours together.
There have been two positive cases among the staff of the Federal Prisons Office: an employee who works in an administrative office in Grand Prairie, Texas, and another employee who works in Leavenworth, Kansas, but who, according to officials, has not had contact with detainees since it became symptomatic.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has temporarily halted visits to 122 federal correctional facilities in the United States, including social and legal visits, although officials have said exceptions may be made for legal visits.
Officials said that staff at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center would continue to monitor the detainee and that they were making efforts to locate those with whom he had been in contact, as well as to clean up “affected areas” . Other detainees who were housed with the man are also under quarantine, as well as staff members who may have been in contact with him.
Each member of staff and contractor entering the metropolitan detention center is subjected to improved medical screening, including taking a temperature with an infrared thermometer and a series of questions to identify risk factors for coronavirus, wrote an official of the Federal Prisons Office in a letter to the chief justice of the southern district of New York earlier this week.
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