No visitors are allowed and testing is underway at state prisons as COVID-19 positive cases climb again statewide, officials said. 

The Department of Corrections announced this weekend it was going into "modified operations" for a period of 14 days so a second round of COVID-19 testing for inmates and staff could be conducted, according to a statement. 

Inmates at 16 facilities will still have access to their medications and medical appointments, mental health contacts, showers and telephones. Rooms will also continue to be disinfected, according to the statement. 

While attorney visits and releases from custody will continue, "general visitation will be suspended during this time," according to a statement from Jason Dobson, DOC communications director. 

Dobson said video visitation, which was launched this summer to help maintain relationships between family and loved ones, will continue at this time, however. 

The DOC "is also expanding inmate access to phone and email communication at this time," he said. 

Some 6,700 inmates are housed the 16 DOC facilities. To date, more than 13,600 COVID-19 tests have been administered, according to information provided by the DOC. 

Per figures available Monday, 224 inmates in DOC facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.

To date, eight inmates have died of COVID-19 in state prisons, according to officials.

Since the first days of the pandemic, DOC officials "recognized the unique challenges COVID-19 posed to the people living and working in correctional environments," according the statement.

Strategies to combat the spread of the coronavirus have included identifying and utilizing quarantine areas; implementing screening areas; enhancing cleaning and sanitizing practices; providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer; and distributing hundreds of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. 

Meanwhile, Middleton Jail, the county jail, has just one positive COVID-19 case. The inmate, housed in the 240C unit, tested positive over the weekend so visitation to that unit is temporarily suspended, said Gretchen Grosky, spokesperson for Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger. 

One contractor and six correctional officers have also recently tested positive, Grosky said. 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill. 


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