Arizona prisons take more steps to guard against coronavirus

Inmates in Arizona’s prisons are being offered free soap and are no longer routinely being moved between prison complexes in the latest efforts to guard against the risks of the coronavirus.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry also announced a requirement Wednesday morning that all employees entering prisons undergo a check for infectious disease symptoms.

“In managing this situation, our two top priorities are safety and public health as we work to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 within our prisons,” said Corrections Director David Shinn.

The agency had previously suspended visitation at state prisons and a $4 copayment on inmates who seek medical help for cold and flu symptoms.

The announcements on Wednesday came after lawyers representing inmates criticized the state for not having an adequate plan to guard against the risks of COVID-19.

In asking a federal court to force the state to develop an adequate plan, the attorneys said they saw medically fragile inmates crowded in dirty and unventilated dorms and tents during a visit last week at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence.

Twenty-seven coronavirus cases have been reported in Arizona. No cases have been reported in state prisons.

For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Lawyers for the inmates have said their clients haven’t adequately been instructed on how to guard against the virus and that the health care system within the prisons suffers from a shortage of workers and limited infirmary space.

They said the prisoners weren’t given disinfectants to scrub their cells or bed space and instead were told to use soap such cleaning. Prisoners normally have to buy soap but it’s now being offered free to those who request it.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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