Well before we were all ordered to close businesses and stay at home, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections implemented COVID-19 safety measures to try to curb any spread of the virus. On March 11, 2020, the DOC enhanced screenings with temperature checks for employers and visitors in an effort to detect the coronavirus.
But those efforts would prove to have not been enough.
Within days, visits to all facilities were canceled. By March 30, SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County reported its first positive case. The next day, another one. Four staff members soon became infected, too.
By April 1, DOC Secretary John Wetzel announced a systemwide lockdown.
“Most of the out-of-cell time will take place on the housing unit and with small groups trying to achieve social distancing in the places where we can,” Wetzel told reporters during a virtual press conference at the time.
The lockdown forced inmates to eat in their cells. They were allowed only virtual visits and letters. Staff began wearing masks.
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