Eight inmates at the New York prison complex at Rikers Island have shown symptoms of coronavirus after being in contact with an inmate who tested positive, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a Thursday news conference.
“The individual is in his early thirties and thankfully at this moment healthwise is doing okay, is in isolation, has been moved to our communicable disease unit on Rikers Island, part of the health care apparatus on Rikers Island,” de Blasio said.
“This inmate was in a housing unit with other inmates,” de Blasio continued. “All have been checked for symptoms. Eight have been identified with symptoms and have been moved also to isolation within the communicable disease unit.”
With an eye toward reducing the number of coronavirus cases within jails, Mayor de Blasio also addressed freeing some prisoners in “instances where somebody should be released because of particular health vulnerabilities [whose] status put them at low risk of reoffending or of being any kind of threat.”
“The cases are being reviewed by the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “40 inmates have been put on a list. We are awaiting sign off on the case from the relevant district attorney and or the state of New York and we intend to begin releases as early as [Thursday] once we have that sign off. We will continue reviewing other cases.”
Newsweek reached out to Mayor de Blasio’s office for comment but did not receive an answer in time for publication.
Inmates are not the only members of New York’s prison system to be affected by coronavirus. Sunday saw the death of a New York City Department of Correction investigator from coronavirus, the first city employee to die from the disease.
Since then, three New York correction officers have tested positive for the virus. While one of the officers has exhibited no symptoms, another officer has been hospitalized.
In a Tuesday statement, Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen called for more protective equipment to be provided to New York correction officers instead of releasing prisoners.
“Instead of recklessly letting inmates out, call for the city to ramp up its efforts to bring in more masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and other vital supplies for the men and women who must also put their health at risk by showing up to work every day, providing care, custody, and control,” Husamudeen wrote. “Correction Officers’ lives matter too.”
At Thursday’s press conference, de Blasio said there were 3,615 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City with 22 deaths attributable to the virus recorded in the city.
“We’re seeing an explosion of cases here in New York City,” de Blasio said.
Data from the New York City Health Department on Wednesday indicated that nearly half of the individuals who tested positive for coronavirus skewed relatively younger and were somewhere within the 18-49 years old demographic.