Florida inmates will produce cloth face masks to protect the correctional officers overseeing them as the number of inmates with Covid-19 continues to rise.
Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) and Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE) will be making cloth face masks using the CDC's templates, the FDC said in a news release Saturday. The FDC and PRIDE are "uniquely situated to respond quickly" to the high demand for these face masks, the department said.
"It's critical we take all precautions necessary to minimize the potential risk to the inmate population and staff charged with their care and custody," FDC Secretary Mark Inch said.
The release says these face coverings will initially be issued to correctional officers, probation officers and staff in high-risk geographic areas of the state. Then the masks will go to institutions which have large at-risk inmate populations, according to the release.
As of Saturday, 44 employees or contract staff and 35 inmates in the Florida correctional system have tested positive for coronavirus, according to data from the state.
Across the country, prisons and jails have become hotbeds of coronavirus infections, largely because of their cramped housing. Cook County Jail in Illinois, for example, has the largest indoor concentration of coronavirus cases in the United States -- more than any cruise ship or nursing home.
To keep the virus from infiltrating correctional institutions, the country's 122 federal prisons and many of its 1,700-plus state prisons have banned visitors and volunteers.