Northampton County Prison goes into COVID-19 quarantine as majority of corrections officers remain unvaccinated
Written by Victoria Scialfa on September 20, 2021
Half of Northampton County Prison jail blocks go into ‘delta outbreak’ quarantine creating risk of infection for the majority of corrections officers who remain unvaccinated
By Tyler Pratt
September 20, 2021
EASTON, Pa. – As of Sept. 17, nearly half the holding areas in the Northampton County Prison were in quarantine due to what officials are calling a “delta outbreak.” Cases have jumped this month from almost none at the end of August to now more than 30 among inmates and employees.
There is a trend among almost all the new COVID-19 cases at the jail according to Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure.
“This is very much an outbreak of the unvaccinated,” McClure said.
The jail has run more than a dozen vaccine clinics and vaccinated hundreds of inmates. But around half the population remains unvaccinated. And among corrections officers, the rate is even lower.
“So right now we’ve got about 82 out of our 211 corrections officers vaccinated,” McClure said. “It’s about 38%. It’s not enough.”
In addition to vaccine education, McClure is offering corrections officers $500 dollars each as an incentive to get shots. It’s the same tactic the county used earlier in the pandemic for nursing home employees, offering them $750.
“We don’t want them bringing delta variants from the outside into the prison,” McClure said.
But last week, McClure issued a rule to outside vendors like kitchen workers and healthcare employees: Get vaccinated or you can’t enter the jail.
However, it doesn’t apply to the corrections officers and their union.
“We’re working with them instead of forcing because public communication experts will tell you this is the best way to accomplish your goal,” McClure said.
McClure didn’t say if he will issue a mandate down the line, but said his financial incentive, that $500 dollars to get vaccinated, expires at the end of this year.
A representative for the jail’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, did not respond to questions from WLVR News in time for publication.
Sign up for our WLVR weekly newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news from the Lehigh Valley and across Pennsylvania.