More than 150K masks to be received by MDOC prison inmates, staff this week

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(WLUC) - To prevent further spread of COVID-19 in state prisons, the Michigan Department of Corrections is creating more than 150,000 masks for prison inmates and staff.

Two inmates from the Newberry and Kinross Correctional Facilities have yet to recover after testing positive for COVID-19 last month. As the number of coronavirus cases for prison inmates and staff across the state of Michigan grows to nearly 400, the Michigan Department of Corrections is working to make sure those inside their facilities are staying protected.

"We're making more than 150,000 masks,” said Michigan Department of Corrections Spokesmen, Chris Gautz.

A collected group of prisoners, involved in the Michigan State Industries Program, are working in factories to make the masks, along with PPE suits, gowns and protective eyewear.

The Marquette Branch Prison received its masks Monday, but by the end of this week, Gautz says every prison inmate and staff in the state will have a free mask to wear at all times.

Gautz says staff are allowed to bring in their own masks from home.

“Even once they get ours, if they still like the ones that they had before they can continue to wear those,” he explained.

Gautz and Michigan Corrections Organization President Byron Osborn understand people are concerned, but they reassure they're working to keep everyone safe.

"We've been advocating very hard with the Department of Corrections, and the Governor's Office as well, to try and make sure all efforts are being made to provide the staff working in the facilities the proper personal protective equipment in the event that infection occurs,” said Osborn.

Since COVID-19 is unlike any situation the Michigan Department of Corrections experienced in a prison setting, Osborn says it does bring challenges since they require staff to operate their 24-7 facilities.

"We don't have the ability to actually close and quarantine an actual facility effectively because we have to have a continuous number of staff coming into the facility,” explained Osborn.

Both representatives also note the Michigan Department of Corrections doesn't have any plans yet to transfer prisoners with COVID-19 from other Michigan prisons to Marquette Branch Prison.

However, this doesn't mean it's not possible.

"Marquette was one of the facilities that had available space, but it's not one we have moved into right now,” further stated Gautz.

Both representatives encourage people to visit the Michigan Department of Corrections' website for the latest information.

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