COAL TOWNSHIP — Seven inmates are segregated and four staff members are quarantined at Northumberland County Jail in Coal Township due to COVID-19 cases.
Warden Bruce Kovach on Wednesday reported to the county prison board that those 11 individuals are either positive or waiting on tests. None of those individuals are hospitalized or require special care, he said.
"At this point in the pandemic, it's becoming part of our standard operating procedures," said Kovach after the meeting. "Everyone understands, and we have the cooperation of the staff and inmates. We think we're doing a good job and everyone is working well together."
In September, the jail had an outbreak of 33 inmates and two guards who tested positive. The jail holds a maximum of 284 inmates.
Kovach also said visitation is still permitted since visitors and inmates don't have physical contact. Visitors are set up in a separate building and meet with their loved ones via video. The biggest difference is dividers for the separation of visitors.
A full-body scanner for the prison was also purchased, installed in November and working pretty well, Kovach said.
"That's part of our everyday inmate screening for inmates coming in," he said. "It adds a level of COVID protection and second-hand protection. We don't have as much to do hands on."
The Intercept scanner is similar to those inside airports and can detect contraband and illegal items. The cost was approximately $149,000, some of which was reimbursed by the county's CARES Act funding. The county received an $8.2 million allocation of CARES funding, which provides payments to state, local and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's a good device to have," said Kovach.
The prison board also voted to re-organize. President Judge Charles Saylor remains as chair and Controller Christopher Grayson remains as secretary. The only change was Commissioner Joe Klebon taking over vice chair duties from Commissioner Sam Schiccatano.
"I am pleased that the Warden and his staff have been able to minimize any Covid 19 outbreak at NCJ, following safe practices," said Saylor after the meeting. "As far as the body scanner, paid for with Covid funds, this is another great addition to detect any drugs or contraband from entering the facility. The Warden reported there has already been one attempt foiled."
Klebon said cases in different buildings and places will continue in the county and out of the county until more people are inoculated with the vaccine.
"We'll be dealing with this for a while yet," said Klebon. "That's just the way of life right now. I have all the faith in the world in the staff and the warden to handle this. They've been doing a good job there at handling the cases and the protocols in place seem to be effective. It's under control the best we can do."