WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Michael Carvajal, demanding that he provide answers regarding the department’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak at FCI Danbury. There are currently over 60 inmates and 50 staff who have contracted the disease, including one inmate who has died.
“We are also concerned that, while FCI Danbury appears to be using isolation and quarantining units to some extent, almost every unit has at least one inmate who has tested positive for COVID-19. Given that supply limitations have forced FCI Danbury to only test symptomatic inmates, the actual infection rate is likely many times higher,” wrote the senators. “The COVID-19 virus is so widespread throughout the units, it is clear that BOP should be testing 100% of inmates and staff.“
Blumenthal and Murphy previously wrote to BOP on April 13, and have yet to receive a reply.
A copy of the full letter is below:
Dear Director Carvajal:
We write to follow up on our letter to you on April 13, 2020 and to express our disappointment at the lack of response from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regarding how FCI Danbury is addressing the pandemic health challenges relative to staff and prisoners.
In the weeks since we wrote, there has been an exponential growth in the number of cases of COVID-19 at FCI Danbury. There are now over 60 inmates and over 50 staff who have tested positive, and one inmate has sadly passed away. Without additional intervention, including greater testing capabilities and supplies, we remain very concerned that FCI Danbury will continue to be a hotspot for COVID-19, putting inmates, staff, and the greater community at risk.
In particular, reports that 18% of staff have tested positive for COVID-19 are alarming. We are also concerned that, while FCI Danbury appears to be using isolation and quarantining units to some extent, almost every unit has at least one inmate who has tested positive for COVID-19. Given that supply limitations have forced FCI Danbury to only test symptomatic inmates, the actual infection rate is likely many times higher. The COVID-19 virus is so widespread throughout the units, it is clear that BOP should be testing 100% of inmates and staff.
We therefore request that, in addition to providing the answers previously requested, you also respond to the following questions:
1. Does BOP policy require staff to be tested by their own primary care physician? Is it BOP policy that staff are only required to be tested once they are symptomatic? If so, why is BOP not allowing FCI Danbury to use its testing capabilities to test all staff? If FCI Danbury is relying on outside testing for its staff, how is the facility coordinating with Department of Public Health, the Danbury Department of Health and Human Services and local health care providers to ensure access to testing?
2. How many tests of inmates is FCI Danbury conducting on site each day? What actions is BOP taking to provide FCI Danbury with additional machines, swabs, and cartridges?
3. Does BOP policy require approval to test additional inmates besides inmates who show symptoms of COVID-19? If so, why? testing capacity to all inmates at FCI Danbury, including through antibody testing?
4. Is BOP offering temporary shelter to employees who would prefer to quarantine away from family to reduce the risk of secondary COVID-19 infection?
Thank you for your timely attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing your response no later than May 8, 2020.