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Virus cases contained at prison

Schuylkill County Prison Deputy Warden Michael Buchanan said for now the pandemic isn’t raging inside the prison.

“We have zero active cases of COVID,” he said.

At times, both prison employees and inmates have been diagnosed. The prison has taken steps to reduce the spread of the virus by prohibiting visitors. Staff have temperatures taken daily. New inmates to the prison receive a rapid COVID-19 test, which provides results in 15 minutes. If the inmate tests negative, they will still be kept separate from other inmates for 72 hours. Prisoners are quarantined for 21 days if they test positive.

A new HVAC system was installed in late December with direct digital controls for the major equipment, a prison intake purge fan and bipolar ionization system within the HVAC units. COVID-19 money paid for the purchase.

The prison board voted last week to hire two new corrections officers.

Chief Sheriff Deputy Brian Tobin requested that Mark Hysock, of Ashland, and Matthew Donnelly, of Shenandoah, be hired on part-time status contingent on drug testing.

Tobin said both were interviewed at the prison and if they pass the drug test, will get sent for training.

“It’s a very challenging job to say the least,” Tobin said of the circumstances they will enter in during the pandemic.

The men can work as many hours as are available to them, he said. With their hires, the prison is down one full-time officer and nine part-time correction officers, according to prison information. The board also took other employment actions Wednesday, accepting the resignation of full-time Alberto Ruiz effective Jan. 27 and maintenance worker Robert Krammes as of Jan. 31.

Buchanan provided an update on the number of inmates at the prison and those being housed at other locations.

As of Wednesday, there were 234 inmates. Of those, 193 are men and 41 women. Peak census in January was 270, the low was 242. Peak female census was 49. Average number of outsourced inmates in January was 20.

Twenty-three inmates are at other prisons, Centre County 7, Columbia County 10, and Northumberland County 6.