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Fed. inmates arrive, at least one tested for COVID-19

Many federal inmates have begun to arrive at the United States Penitentiary Lewisburg and the Federal Corrections Complex at Allenwood — including one who was sick and tested for COVID-19.

The relocations are “a mistake,” says U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, who opposes further transfer of federal inmates during the duration of the pandemic.

Thirty-two inmates were flown Tuesday from Oklahoma to Harrisburg, and taken by U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Prisons employees by buses, Keller said.

Some of these inmates screened showed signs of physical distress including coughing and some had registered fevers, said Andrew Kline, a union president for corrections officers in Lewisburg and Allenwood.

Within hours of initial arrival off the bus, two inmates were experiencing fever and cough, Kline said. One was sick enough to be taken to a local hospital and was tested for the virus, he said.

“The inmate is no longer in the hospital — the test results have not come back,” Kline said.

Inmate transfer from detention centers around the nation typically occurs on Monday, he said. Kline said he is concerned about inmates coming to prisons that did not have cases two weeks ago.

His greatest concern was the broader community spread and the virus lying dormant before some patients experience symptoms that include fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath.

Keller said he’s trying to reach the U.S. Attorney General on the matter.

“Clearly, the Bureau of Prisons can’t guarantee the safety of the inmates employees their families or the broader community,” Keller said.

Keller wrote a second letter to Michael Carvajal, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, asking for the transfers, which also include sending inmates to USP Canaan in Wayne County, to stop.

He wrote last week to the director in an attempt to avoid what has taken place. U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, also are asking for similar action, including termination of transfers until inmates can be deemed to have clean bills of health.

Toomey said he preferred stopping transfers until the inmates can be tested 14 days prior to relocation to determine they are not spreading the contagion.

Casey asked multiple questions seeking answers to how the bureau reversed its stated intention not to transfer inmates to Pennsylvania and about procedures to stop the contagion from spreading.

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