Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. has a message for people who are hesitant to wear a face mask in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He says the early usage of face coverings, frequent sanitation, and social distancing practices at the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities in Riverhead and Yaphank are why the rates of COVID-19 among staff and inmates is starkly lower than in other jails and prisons, as well as the general public. Sheriff Toulon began planning for the possibility of the coronavirus entering the jails in February and was ready to quickly enact strict health and safety protocols in early March when COVID-19 was first detected in Suffolk County.
To date, only one inmate has contracted COVID-19 while at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility and one inmate entered the jail already carrying the virus. Less than 2% of the correctional staff has come down with coronavirus. The County Sheriff says that since everyone is required to wear face coverings and that social distancing is enforced throughout the facility, coronavirus hasn’t spread inside the two jails like it has elsewhere, and it should serve as an example for the general public that COVID-19 can be controlled by following the advice of public health officials.
The County Sheriff said, “I think if more people knew how we have controlled the spread of COVID-19 inside the jails by wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distance from others, that people would understand that they do have some control if they take personal responsibility. The mixed messages have put too many people in danger, led to further spread of the virus, and it has caused immeasurable damage to the economy.” He added, “I strongly advise people to adopt the practice of wearing a face mask or a simple face covering and staying a safe distance from others in public places. Our jails are proof that it works. We need to stop the spread so that we can move forward and get our economy up and running.”