ALBANY, N.Y. — Michael B. Powers, the union president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, has tested positive for coronavirus.
Powers has been in quarantine at his home for the past several days.
NYSCOPBA says Powers was regularly in contact with correctional officers across New York.
Powers says there are more than 50 officers with coronavirus, and hundreds in self-isolation.
“To date, there are approximately 56 state correction officers and sergeants that have tested positive for COVID-19, including me. One of the officers is hospitalized and requires the use of a ventilator.
“Additionally, hundreds of DOCCS employees are under self-quarantine or directed by their personal physicians to remain under quarantine. In the Office of Mental Health/Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, approximately 35 employees are under orders to quarantine. Six OMH/OPWDD employees have tested positive for the virus. Of those six positive tests, two are hospitalized with one remaining in critical condition.
“We can be assured that the total of positive cases will increase. The numbers underscore the fact that our state facilities are on the cusp of a wide outbreak. This concern must be taken seriously, and certain measures must be put in place immediately to protect staff,” said Powers.
NYSCOPBA is urging the state to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to facility staff to help prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The union sent letters to various agencies in March requesting PPE and other preventative measures. Powers says the union is willing to pitch in to help cover costs.
“The dedicated members of NYSCOPBA are mandated to work on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis. I am calling on the Governor to make employee safety a priority and direct his state agencies to allow all staff members the ability to use basic personal protection equipment.
“If the state cannot pay for it, then allow NYSCOPBA to help.
“Each day that our members are prohibited from wearing protective equipment, they are exposed to being infected and spreading the virus inside and outside of the facilities. We recognize and appreciate that some of our concerns have been addressed. However, further delays to our reasonable requests to protect staff must not continue.
“The members of NYSCOPBA must be afforded the ability to protect themselves. The use of PPEs to limit our members from exposure and infection makes sense. Too much time has already passed. Every day we are discovering more positive tests for COVID-19.
“The state must act now before it is too late, and we’re faced with a bigger crisis inside the state’s prison and mental health systems,” said Powers.
In addition to the requests for PPE, NYSCOPBA is also seeking:
- Protections for members considered vulnerable or high-risk
- Accommodations for members who work in isolation units
- Increased testing for staff, inmates and patients
- Strict adherence to DOH and CDC guidelines
- More stringent transportation and movement policies