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Suffolk jails allows visitors again after virus lockdown

Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead.

Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead. Credit: James Carbone

Visitors will be allowed to return to Suffolk County’s jails in Riverhead and Yaphank next week, Sheriff Errol Toulon announced Thursday, more than three months after officials suspended visitation because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Jail officials barred contact visits in early March, which meant inmates were separated by a partition from friends and family members, then and ended visits completely later that month in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus. 

Visits will continue to be noncontact and visitors will be required to wear face coverings and have their temperature checked when visiting hours resume on Tuesday, Toulon said. Visits will be limited to 30 minutes and visitors must make a reservation to see an inmate. Walk-ins will not be permitted. 

"We are taking every precaution necessary and consulting with the [Suffolk] health department to protect the health of staff, inmates and visitors," Toulon said.

Nassau County officials did not immediately respond when asked when the correctional facility in East Meadow would begin accepting visitors. 

Public health experts and correction officials say jails and prisons are especially vulnerable during infectious disease pandemics because inmates, correction officers and staff share cramped spaces for long periods of time. Correctional facilities across the nation have seen devastating outbreaks of coronavirus cases. 

Just one inmate is believed to have been infected with the coronavirus while in a Suffolk jail, Toulon said.  Another inmate tested positive when he was admitted but has since recovered. About two dozen corrections officers and deputies have been infected with the coronavirus. All but one have recovered. 

Jail visitors who do not live together will be required to maintain social distancing as much as possible once visits resume, officials said. Visitors not of the same household will not be permitted to visit an inmate at the same time. Anyone with coronavirus symptoms will not be permitted in the facilities. 

To make a reservations at the Riverhead jail, call 631-852-1893. To make a visitation appointment for an inmate in Yaphank, call 631-852-1894.

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