ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in Maryland, corrections officers in Anne Arundel County are bracing for a potential COVID-19 outbreak at the jails.
In Maryland, there are more than 55 confirmed cases of the virus in state correctional facilities. Among the cases, 22 of them are corrections officers and two dozen others are contract staff.
There are no confirmed cases at jails in Anne Arundel County, but the fear of an outbreak worries corrections officers at the jails.
“We see it as being a matter of time, but we hope that it doesn’t get in,” said Chris Blanton, who is a corrections officer and the President of the Fraternal Order of Detention Officers and Personnel in Anne Arundel County.
Blanton says he and other inmates are concerned about not only getting the virus, but possibly infecting their loved ones.
“When you sign up for a job like this you sign up to go to work, you put your self in jeopardy,” said Chris Blanton. “You don’t typically have the issues where you put your family at a risk too.“
Earlier this week, an Anne Arundel County circuit court judge released 10 inmates from jail in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. The move comes amid growing calls to reduce the inmate population in prisons and jails where Blanton says it’s virtually impossible to practice social distancing.
“Where we are at, it’s a confined space,” he said. “It’s a confined building with a lot of staff and inmates, unfortunately for the officers, [we] don’t have that social distancing aspect you can really use.”
Blanton says the inability to social distance could pose bigger problems because a number of corrections at the jails are at a greater risk of having a severe case of the virus.
“We have plenty of staff members with the underlying health condition this virus is affecting and killing,” Blanton said. “It is worrisome to know that there is a virus, usually you can see what you’re fighting, you can’t see this.”
However, the county has taken steps to protect staff and inmates from contracting the virus.
“Every employee there has to wear a surgical mask while they’re in the facility,” he said. “Staff is getting their temperature checked prior to coming in…we have thermometers to check every new detainee as they come into the facility.”
But despite the safety measures, Blanton is worried no matter what they do, the virus will still likely get in.
“The whole country is in it together,” he said. “All we can really do is support each other.”