SCI Huntingdon Now Has More Inmates With COVID-19 Than All Other Pa. State Prisons Combined

May 5, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise at SCI Huntingdon, which now accounts for more than half of the cases among inmates across Pennsylvania state prisons. 

There are 52 inmates and 28 staff at SCI Huntingdon who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the Department of Corrections. Across Pennsylvania, state prisons report a combined total of 87 inmates and 122 staff who have COVID-19. 

The Department of Health said as of Tuesday, there are 59 confirmed cases in Huntingdon County, where SCI Huntingdon inmates are counted as residents. Staff members, who self-report positive test results, are counted in the county where they live, which may or may not be Huntingdon County.

To isolate and treat inmates, the gym at SCI Huntingdon has been converted into an infirmary, and inmates may receive IV and oxygen therapy there if needed, according to Department of Corrections press secretary Maria Finn. Two inmates in critical condition are currently being treated at a local hospital, Finn said.

SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County has 31 COVID-19 cases among inmates and 55 among staff, the largest total number of cases among the state’s correctional institutions, but it also houses about 1,000 more inmates than SCI Huntingdon. 

Eleven SCI Huntingdon inmates have tested negative so far. When asked whether the department will consider expanding testing inside the facility, Finn said inmates who show COVID-19 related symptoms get tested and the department is “following CDC guidelines for testing.”

Safety protocols like limited visitation and verbal screening for symptoms have been put in place. The Department of Corrections is also conducting contact tracing, including using internal surveillance footage to track interactions.

Employees and vendors for food and medical services who must enter facilities are screened for symptoms, according to Finn. Employees and vendors are required to wear masks at all times, and inmates must wear them anytime they leave their cells. The department said all inmate movement has also been “severely curtailed.”