CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), along with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) called upon the federal government to better equip two in-state prisons currently in use as quarantine sites for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
Senator Capito, Attorney General Morrisey, and Congressman McKinley sent a joint letter Tuesday urging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to help secure point-of-care testing machines for FCI Gilmer and FCI Hazelton, located respectively in Gilmer and Preston counties.
The machines, which Secretary Azar recently offered the U.S. Senate, can be operated in the field and provide results in as little as five minutes.
“If these machines are good enough for the Senate, then they are good enough for our heroes on the actual front lines of this crisis—including our correctional guards, nurses, and staff,” Senator Capito, Attorney General Morrisey, and Congressman McKinley wrote.
“Our correctional officers and staff already face dangers every day in the line of duty; dangers that they know, understand, and can respond to,” they continued. “But exposing them to an infectious agent like COVID-19 without warning forces them to fly blind. They deserve better. And, because COVID-19 is so virulently contagious, depriving officers and staff of this information doesn’t just threaten them, but threatens everyone in Gilmer County and communities like it. The federal government should do everything in its power to deliver on its promises to the West Virginians who keep us safe, and make sure that all inmates transferred into the facilities we maintain are appropriately screened for COVID-19.”
The joint letter takes on added significance given news this past weekend that one of the inmates transferred into FCI Gilmer has in fact tested positive for COVID-19 – proving that despite assurances from the BOP, even more needs to be done to ensure the safety of our corrections officers, their families, and the local community.
“In times of crisis, it becomes all the more important to ensure that we are giving our first responders the back-up and support they deserve,” the leaders wrote. “The Department of Health and Human Services can make great strides towards this goal by helping to secure more testing equipment to the Bureau of Prisons. Thank you so much for your attention to this matter.”
Read a copy of Tuesday’s letter here.