March 14, 2020
A prison employee at George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County tested positive for coronavirus Friday, leading to a quarantine of 11 inmates.
The unnamed employee has not been in the Glen Mills, Pa. facility for seven days, The Delaware County Daily Times reported early Saturday. It is one of the first reported cases of coronavirus at a prison in the world. There was another one Friday in Seattle, where the positive test also came from a staff member.
George W. Hill Correctional Facility is operated by the private company Geo Group Inc., which issued a statement saying the employee likely was in contact with someone from China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated.
There are nearly 2,000 inmates at the Delaware County facility, but as of now prison officials are only placing 11 on quarantine to limit potential spread within the grounds.
Officials advise that anyone whose been in contact with the employee should seek testing. There will be a press conference Saturday with updates to the situation. Prison says they are working with health department officials.
Prisons potentially pose a higher risk of spread within their facilities due to their many small, shared spaces, according to NPR. Sanitary issues have been raised by correctional officers at other U.S. prisons. Crowding, ventilation and security issues can turn them into coronavirus "incubators," according to one physician who spent 25 years working on prison health care issues.
Because of this, some are calling for the release of certain inmates to avoid coronavirus spread, illness and death.
As of Friday, there are 41 positive cases in Pennsylvania, with the majority (18) in Montgomery County, six in Delaware County, and three in Philadelphia, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. More extreme social distancing measures have now been implemented in Delaware County and Montgomery County, and schools across the state are closed for two weeks.