The Virginia Dept. of Corrections is making fabric guard masks to keep the coronavirus out of state prisons.

Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper County on Sunday received a delivery of 5,200 fabric masks manufactured by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Though not medical grade, the “sneeze/cough guard masks” are intended to keep COVID-19 out of state prisons, according to a news release on Monday from Virginia Department of Corrections Director Howard W. Clarke.

There are still no known cases of COVID-19 among offenders and staff in Virginia’s prisons, the release stated. Coffeewood, located about seven miles south of the town of Culpeper in Mitchells, has capacity for around 1,000 male prisoners.

A married Culpeper couple in their 70s was announced late Friday as the first county residents diagnosed with the respiratory illness.

Virginia DOC started production of the masks for use in its prisons late Friday at all four Virginia Correctional Enterprise apparel plants. Virginia DOC is hoping to be able to produce up to 15,000 sneeze/cough guard masks a day, the release stated.

Virginia Correctional Enterprises also manufactures cleaning supplies approved by the EPA for use in combating the coronavirus. These are used by the Virginia DOC and available for procurement. Due to high demand, the agency is limiting customer orders.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia DOC facilities have moved to modified lockdown in order to minimize contact between groups of offenders from different buildings. Offenders eat in their pods and go to recreation with their own pod of offenders. They will not eat and recreate with offenders from other pods until further notice.

While visitation at correctional facilities is cancelled for now, off-site video visitation remains available. From March 15 to March 21, Virginia inmates in state facilities sent and received 193,487 email messages, made 447,809 telephone calls, and completed 1,503 video visits. During this pandemic, offenders are receiving two free phone calls per week.

The Virginia DOC is using various tools to evaluate and monitor offenders’ health. Its extensive Medical Epidemic/Pandemic Sanitation Plan is in place so department facilities ensure accurate sanitation during the pandemic along with using appropriate chemicals and approved protective equipment. A coronavirus screening tool is in place for employees, and all employees must assess their risk on a daily basis prior to reporting to work, the release stated.

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