The Oklahoma City inmate who was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood on Monday has tested positive for a respiratory infection but the COVID-19 test is still pending, a prison union official said.
Andy Kline, the president of Local 148 and Coalition of PA Locals, said officials at both Allenwood and U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, are anxiously waiting for the COVID-19 test result after busloads of inmates from other states have been transferred to those facilities in the past week.
"Please pray for all these staff," Kline said.
The Daily Item called Geisinger to determine if an individual could be diagnosed with both and was told it is not possible for both diseases to be diagnosed at the same time, hospital spokesman Joe Stender said.
Kline said the inmate tested positive for a respiratory infection known as coronavirus NL63 and was told the test result for COVID-19, which is a new disease and the focus of the pandemic, was still pending.
Pennsylvania prison employees are on high alert since a New York City inmate became the first federal prisoner to test positive for COVID-19 last week.
Adding to the union's concern, Kline said, is that correctional officers at Allenwood that were quarantined at home were ordered back to work Thursday by Bureau of Prison (BOP) officials.
The Daily Item sent a request for comment to the BOP late Thursday afternoon and did not receive an immediate reply.
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Fred Keller criticized BOP Director Michael Carvajal for providing conflicting information about the out-of-state transfers and then referring questions to the U.S. Marshal Service which is responsible for the transports.
Keller spoke by phone with Carvajal on Thursday about stopping the transfer of inmates during the pandemic and was informed that the BOP is required by law to move inmates as ordered by the courts.
In response, Keller is now working on legislation he plans to introduce as soon as next week that would give the BOP authority to immediately halt inmate transfers during the pandemic.
"As I continue down this path, I will also be exhausting all available remedies with the Department of Justice to immediately halt all inmate movement," Keller said.
Meanwhile, Kline said correctional officers are encouraged to stay home if sick, use sound judgment if they may have been exposed and consult their physician.