An investigator from the Department of Correction who tested positive for the coronavirus has died, NY1 has learned.
It is unclear how long the correction employee had the virus.
In a statement the Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said:
“Last night, a member of DOC staff who had tested positive for COVID-19 passed away at a local hospital. This person was an investigator and had limited contact with people in custody. We are heartbroken and send our deepest condolences to our colleague’s family, loved ones, and co-workers. As we endure this loss to our community, we will continue to do everything to keep our facilities safe for everyone. Consistent with CDC and DOHMH guidance, anyone who was in close contact with this individual has been notified and appropriate precautions taken.”
While officials said this investigator had little contact with people in custody, criminal justice advocates have raised serious questions about how the department plans to curtail the spread of the virus in city jails. Last week, NY1 received an internal planning document detailing what changes the department would make if there was an outbreak on Rikers Island -- that includes isolating inmates with flu-like symptoms.
On Monday morning, the department said it would suspend in-person visitation starting this week. Officials said it would increase access to phones and postage stamps to make sure inmates could “stay in contact” with families members. The city said it was also working to implement a “televisit initiative” that would allow people to use their own personal computers to contact inmates.
In response to the coronavirus case within the Department of Correction, the Legal Aid Society’s Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice Tina Luongo released the following statement Sunday night:
“We expressed concerns about DOC’s preparedness for this pandemic because we all know that cases of COVID-19 in City jails are an inevitability. In light of this confirmed case, we implore the City to act immediately to protect all people in the facilities — both people in custody and staff. We await a response to our demands, which is more critical now than ever.”
The Legal Aid Society also said it had received reports from clients within the jails that they lacked basic sanitation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some said they did not have access to soap or hand sanitizer in their housing units.
We asked correction officials how many people the investigator came into contact with at the Department of Correction. We have not received a response for that specific question. On Monday morning, a spokesperson for the department said one person who worked in close proximity with the employee is under 14-day quarantine and "they will continue to trace close contacts.”
This is a developing story.