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PRESS RELEASE: Issuance of N95 Respirators to Correctional Staff

Released April 3, 2020

Contact Susan Biller, (425) 754-4939

Department of Corrections

n95 respirator

Example of one type of N95 respirator that is being made available to correctional facility, work release, and community corrections staff. (DOC Communications)

TUMWATER – The Washington State Department of Corrections has begun to issue expired N95 respirators to staff who work closely with those incarcerated in state correctional facilities, work release centers and supervised under community custody. The wearing of N95 respirators is for general use and is voluntary to staff at this time. The purpose of providing the N95 respirators is to reduce the chances for transferring COVID-19 into state correctional facilities and work release centers and to those supervised under community custody.

To date, there have been no positive test results for COVID-19 among the incarcerated population currently housed in Washington state correctional facilities. One incarcerated individual who was housed in a community medical center contracted COVID-19 while housed outside the state correctional facility and has remained in the community medical center since that time. Currently, nine department staff have tested positive since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department has implemented screening for all persons entering facilities, implemented social distancing protocols, increased cleaning and disinfecting of all areas and limited visitor and volunteer access to facilities. Today’s action by the Department represents the latest preventative and protective effort for all individuals.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended face coverings in settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. The department understands that staff represent a point of vulnerability in potentially bringing COVID-19 within a correctional facility.

In times of increased demand and decreased supply, consideration can be made to use the N95 respirators past their manufacturer-designated shelf life when responding to COVID-19. These expired N95 respirators are for general use and an additional level of protection at this time.