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December 07, 2020

Philadelphia inmates instructed to shelter-in-place as COVID-19 cases surge

In-person visits at correctional facilities have been suspended

Prisons Coronavirus
Philly prisons shelter-in-place Street View/Google

The shelter-in-place order means that inmates may only leave their jail cell for showers, phone calls and virtual visits with attorneys, families and friends.

The Philadelphia Department of Prisons has ordered its 4,300-plus inmates to shelter-in-place in response to an uptick in asymptomatic COVID-19 cases among the prison population. 

Inmates may only leave their cells for showers, phone calls and virtual visits with attorneys, families and friends. 

All in-person guests are banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Department of Prisons is starting video visits with loved ones Dec. 15. Only official legal visits with attorneys had been allowed to take place.

Prisons have been hotbeds for the coronavirus since the pandemic began. As of Sunday morning, the department's four facilities had 136 asymptomatic cases and 15 symptomatic cases among 4,344 inmates. 

The department said it is continuing to track COVID-19 transmission trends in the Philly region to guide future decisions.

"It is in the best interest to protect the health and safety of our staff, contractors, inmates and everyone within our PDP facilities to return to shelter in place," the department said in a statement.

"We do not make this decision lightly. However, we must make every effort to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 to best protect everyone within our PDP facilities. We will continue all of our proactive measures to mitigate transmission and monitor accordingly, while working with and reporting positive cases to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health."

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, all inmates were put under a shelter-in-place and in-person visits were stopped as an effort to mitigate spread. Those restrictions were eased in June, when inmates were allowed to more freely leave their cells while maintaining social distance. 

The reimplementation of a shelter-in-place comes as Pennsylvania recorded a record-high 12,884 cases Saturday, increasing the statewide total to 411,484 cases since the pandemic began.

Philadelphia also reported a record-high 1,816 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the citywide total to 71,331.

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