Gov. Phil Murphy announced a NY, CT and NJ COVID restrictions update Monday which would see most capacity limits lifted in May.
Fifteen inmates at the Bergen County jail in Hackensack tested positive for COVID-19 and have been placed in quarantine, Sheriff Anthony Cureton said Tuesday.
Some of the inmates, all males, have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, and do not require hospitalization, Cureton said.None of the correctional officers have tested positive, and the jail will conduct the standard contact tracing, Cureton said. All who tested positive were moved to a quarantine unit, Cureton said.
“For the safety of everybody we quarantined the whole unit,” he said noting there were more than 15 people in the unit. “And then we test everybody in the unit.”
Warden Michael Russo said the virus appeared to be confined to one unit at the jail.
Cureton said since the start of the pandemic last March through February, 53 inmates at the Hackensack jail had tested positive for the novel virus.
More than 100 inmates out of 470 at the jail Tuesday, including federal immigration detainees have received the COVID-19 vaccine, Cureton said. He did not know if any of the inmates who had tested positive had been inoculated.
Inmates as well as federal immigration detainees held at the jail for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement receive two masks twice a week and wearing them is enforced, Cureton said.
“Everyone must wear a mask, it’s not optional,” he said.
COVID-19 tests are given to new arrivals at the jail, and random tests are performed on all inmates and detainees. Cureton said inmates and detainees are also shown a video and given information about COVID-19 and the vaccine.
At first there was some hesitancy by some inmates about getting the vaccine, Cureton said, but more have shown interest since the start of the rollout.
Duane Holmes, who has been held at the jail since 2019 on theft, burglary and money laundering charges, said he was tested for COVID-19 on Monday. On Tuesday afternoon he said he saw several inmates grab their mattresses and head out to another unit within the jail.
“I know this is not looking right, we all did tests yesterday,” he said he wondered to himself before he approached a jail officer to inquire what was going on. “I asked are these people leaving because they are positive, or because they are negative? And he said, well you know we are not moving them because they are negative.”
Holmes, 49, said he was concerned about the spread of the virus not only for himself but for others in the jail. He said officers remind inmates to wear their masks, but he said some inmates are not always diligent about keeping them on.
“We have lost hundreds of thousands of people, millions [around the world],” he said. “There are people who have taken the vaccine, who they are taking out of here, who are testing positive, who are sick… I never thought it could hit a unit like this.”
Monsy Alvarado is the immigration reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about one of the hottest issues in our state and country, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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