Lancaster County prison awaits results on nearly 100 outstanding COVID-19 tests, and could see a “large number” of positives, Warden Cheryl Steberger said at Thursday’s prison board meeting.
Since Aug. 10, 17 new cases have been detected among inmates and seven among staff with the infections centered around the kitchen crew.
The prison population as of Thursday was 650 inmates, and 202 staff.
Results are pending for 99 COViD-19 tests.
Visitation had resumed earlier this month, briefly, but was ended again because of this new outbreak, Steberger said. No other changes in prison procedures or policies have been made due to the recent outbreak.
The warden also gave an update on three recent deaths at the facility, all of which are still pending results from the coroner.
Asked if any of the deaths might be related to temperatures inside of the facility, which at times can reach upwards of 90 degrees, Commissioner Josh Parsons said county officials are still awaiting results from the coroner but did not see any indication of that so far. The prison has no air conditioning.
Debate over building a new facility was sprinkled throughout the entire meeting, with local prison reform activists and Commissioner Craig Lehman citing the heat and lack of air conditioning in the building as another reason it is in need of replacement.
Lehman said if by the same time next year progress had not been made on the issue, he would begin “screaming at the top of his lungs.”
Parsons has maintained the position that first the county must improve its fiscal situation before taking on a large capital project like a prison, and Lehman has said that the county will soon reach the right moment from a fiscal perspective. Both agree that the first step will be acquiring land, which they cannot comment on publicly or it might skew the real estate market.
In his closest statement yet to saying plans to build a new prison are underway, Parsons said “If it hadn’t been for COVID, which literally occupied basically 100% of everyone’s time every day plus weekends for months and months, I think you might have seen something move forward already.”