April 10, 2020
Contact: FDC Communications
A Second Message to Families
Dear Friends, Families and Loved Ones of our Incarcerated Individuals:
I hope all of you are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented and challenging times. Rest assured, the Florida Department of Corrections continues to work around the clock to fight against the spread of COVID-19 and doing everything we can to protect and support those within our care.
Today, the Department posted a public notice sharing that thirty-one (31) of nearly 93,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 (30 at Blackwater CF and 1 at Sumter CI). The inmates are getting the medical treatment they require, and we pray for their safe recovery.
In an effort to ensure as much transparency as possible, these public notices are posted online every day in the Newsroom on our website.
The Department is following guidelines issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health during this global public health crisis. We work very hard and fast to medically isolate those with potential symptoms of COVID-19 and medically quarantine those who could have come in contact with a positive staff member or inmate. We watch them for 14 days for any symptoms (for example, we take their temperature twice a day).
Our prisons have taken exceptional social distancing measures to protect inmates from the risk of community spread:
- We suspended visitation and volunteer activities very early in this pandemic to minimize the ability of COVID-19 to enter the facilities.
- We instituted rigorous screening criteria to keep out staff that might be affected. All potentially impacted staff are sent home for 14 days to self-quarantine.
- Every inmate that comes from an appointment outside one of our facilities or transfers from a jail also goes into a 14-day quarantine (this is called security quarantine).
- With any positive COVID-19 result, we use interviews and cameras to do a detailed contact tracing to make sure we get all potentially impacted inmates into quarantine.
Although social distancing within a prison environment presents its challenges, we are doing everything possible to ensure the health and safety of inmates. Even in dorms, we encourage social distancing to the best that the environment and facility construction style allows. The greater challenge, I admit, is in open dorm settings, as opposed to dorms and wings with separate cells and more controlled movement.
Following the new CDC guidance issued last week, we have ordered and are already receiving cloth face coverings for all staff and inmates. I will start issuing the coverings first to staff because they are the greater risk to your loved ones. But over the next two weeks, we hope to have all our staff and your loved ones in cloth face coverings. We have sufficient protective equipment for inmates displaying symptoms, and for those staff that work in direct contact with those in medical isolation.
Please let me show you the most important data that I review daily and what it really means, so that you can properly weigh what is truly a concerning pandemic along with the actions we have and are taking to keep your loved ones safe.Here are the facts as of today:
- Thirty-one (31) of nearly 93,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 (30 at Blackwater CF, 1 at Sumter CI). As I mentioned above, the inmates are getting the medical treatment they require, and we pray for their safe recovery.
- Sufficient test kits are available so all inmates that display COVID-19 like symptoms are tested.
- Forty (40) of over 30,000 FDC staff and private employees that work with inmates and offenders have tested positive across the state prison system, and we pray for their safe recovery.
- Staff members that test positive are not “in” our facilities but are isolated at home; six do not work in a facility.
- Twenty-three of 143 FDC facilities have at least one staff member assigned that has tested positive (36 staff total).
- Fourteen of those 21 facilities have only one staff member that tested positive (to include Sumter CI); Blackwater CF has six staff members that have tested positive.
- We continue to aggressively screen all incoming staff to our facilities and offices; nearly 2,000 staff have been either directed to self-quarantine due to circumstances or referred to a medical provider due to symptoms since the start of the pandemic — we are not taking any chances!
- 58% of our major facilities are in counties that report 25 or less positive cases county-wide, 42% of our major facilities are in counties that report 10 or less; this is one advantage to having prisons in rural counties.
I am truly sorry for the anxiety and fear you must be experiencing. The men and women of the Florida Department of Corrections and our amazing health care and service providers and private partners are working courageously and diligently to protect your loved ones. We all have the same goal, to keep your loved ones and our staff, families and community safe from the COVID-19 virus.
For those observing Easter, Passover, and Ramadan this month, I encourage you to say an extra prayer for the inmates and staff at Blackwater and Sumter. Know I am personally praying for each of you and working with intent to ensure the health, safety and well-being of your loved ones.
Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections
As Florida's largest state agency, and the third largest state prison system in the country, FDC employs 24,000 members, incarcerates 80,000 inmates and supervises nearly 145,000 offenders in the community.