Officials at the Bedford County Correctional Facility are taking precautions to keep the coronavirus out of the jail.
Warden Troy Nelson said he is taking “every necessary precaution” available to him to prevent the virus from entering the facility that is housing about 170 inmates from Bedford and Fulton counties.
“There are a substantial number of challenges that may come about in the event even one case of the coronavirus presents itself inside the walls of the facility,” Nelson said.
A new correctional facility transitioned to a new health care provider this year, with Dr. Shawn McGlaughlin of Evangelical Community Hospital in Mifflin County serving as the lead physician.
The change came after the Hyndman Area Health Center opted out of its contract because the center was spending more money at the jail than what the county paid for services.
Nelson said the new medical staff is acting proactively to mitigate the threat of the virus.
“The jail physician and medical staff are working diligently to make sure that we are proactive in our approach to this pandemic within the confines of the correctional facility,” he said.
Those efforts begin when new inmates enter the facility. Nelson said those entering the facility are medically evaluated at the door for suspected signs and symptoms of the virus.
”Any new commitments are medically evaluated at the door so that we know what we are dealing with immediately and can take any and all necessary precautions if the need arises,” he said.
Nelson suspended visitation to the jail two weeks ago. Only visits for medical or approved legal matters are permitted. The warden said that restriction will continue until further notice.
The correctional facility staff also has increased cleaning efforts.
“From a sanitary standpoint, we have upgraded our facility cleaning procedures to include daily wipe downs of commonly utilized areas and items such as door handles, etc., with a disinfectant known to kill the virus,” he said.
Efforts at the county jail coincide with those being made in state correctional institutions.
The Department of Corrections in a news release on Monday announced officials will use State Correctional Institution at Retreat in Luzerne County as a reception facility for all new male commitments and male parole violators.
There were no positive cases of COVID-19 in the state prison inmate population as of Monday.
Following an intake quarantine period at SCI Retreat, the new commitments will be sent to SCI Camp Hill in Cumberland County for classification and evaluation.
The state sent a letter to county jails informing them of the changes and that the department is pausing new commitments for several days.
Department of Corrections Sec. John Wetzel in the new release expressed gratitude to county jails across the state for their efforts in response to the coronavirus.
“Everyone is doing a great job working together to do whatever is necessary to mitigate the impact COVID-19 has on our systems,” he said.