Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center — one of the only corrections facilities in the region that had no known coronavirus infections after nearly two months — reported its first two cases to a judge Friday.
Government lawyers disclosed in court filings that two staff members have tested positive. The first had not been at the Center City facility in more than two weeks, they said. They did not provide details about the second, except to say that the person had “limited inmate contact.”
“Administrators are conducting a contact investigation to notify those who may have come in direct contact with the staff member,” lawyers with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia wrote in a filing Friday.
The disclosures came as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of three Federal Detention Center inmates who have asked U.S. District Judge Anita Brody to order their release due to their preexisting health conditions and the difficulties of effectively implementing social distancing guidelines and proper hygiene behind bars. They are seeking class-action status for their suit.
Earlier, prison officials had argued any intervention from the judge would be premature as there had been no reported coronavirus cases in their facility. However, they also disclosed at the time that they had not tested any of the inmates or staff, either.
Government lawyers acknowledged in court filings this past week that the facility had only 15 test kits available and planned to hold on to them in case anyone who lived or worked in the detention center began to show symptoms.