GOUVERNEUR, N.Y. (WWNY) - COVID-19 cases continue to surge at prisons in St. Lawrence County. Everyone is concerned. Some say it’s more like terrified.
The total of COVID-19 cases has doubled at Gouverneur Correctional Facility in the last two weeks. That has anyone there with loved ones wondering how much worse can it get?
“It’s just something very dark. Very dark. Something that’s terrifying,” said Diana Escobar, Gouverneur inmate’s wife.
Escobar, with two young daughters, hasn’t been able to see her husband since April.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Corrections said 50 inmates at Gouverneur had tested positive. Now that number has climbed to 101.
“He’s in danger, you know, and you feel what they’re feeling. And you feel everything they’re going through. And you’re also caring with your own fear,” said Escobar.
Other area prisons are not escaping the scourge. At Riverview Correctional, the number of cases has tripled since Christmas Eve.
Ogdensburg Correctional had no inmate cases at that time. Now, it has 27.
“The spread is so fast … it’s difficult to keep up with. And it’s a constant moving target,” said Michael Powers, New York State Correctional Officers Police Benevolent Association president.
Powers says the state ignores his union’s call for social distancing in prisons. Dozens of staff in local prisons have also contracted the disease.
At Gouverneur there is some hope. The number of active cases among inmates has dropped slightly.
“Lots of controversy in this country right now. But COVID, that should be our real war - fighting COVID and defending ourselves against it,” said Ronald McDougall, Gouverneur mayor.
Visitation at prisons like Gouverneur is currently suspended to prevent spread of the disease.
The Department of Corrections says there have been 27 inmate deaths and 6 staff deaths in the prison system due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.