NYC Appeals Judge's Order To Equip Correction Officers With N95 Masks
Queens, NY – Attorneys for New York City have appealed a judge’s ruling that the city must provide N95 masks to correction officers working at Rikers Island or in city jails.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA) brought the lawsuit against the city of New York for failure to equip its members with personal protective equipment (PPE) after multiple inmates and staff tested positive for coronavirus in various facilities all over the city, the New York Post reported.
The union said it had already purchased 25,000 N95 masks for the 9,000 correction officers it represents, but said they need thousands more and the responsibility lies with the city, the New York Daily News reported.
On Friday, Queens Supreme Court Judge Pamela Jackman Brown ruled in favor of the correction officers’ union and ordered the city to provide N95 masks to correction officers before they began their shifts.
Jackman Browne also ordered prison officials to check correction officers’ temperatures or give them a rapid COVID-19 test before they started work each day, the New York Post reported.
The judge ordered that the same measures should be taken with correction officers who transport prisoners.
Jackman Browne further said that the city should provide non-N95 surgical masks to all of the correction department employees not working in the city jails and ordered them to sanitize all work areas between shifts, the New York Daily News reported.
Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for New York City’s law department, said before the judge’s ruling that the city and Mayor Bill De Blasio were already reducing the number of inmates in city jails and had increased cleaning measures in facilities, according to Reuters.
As soon as Jackman Browne ruled in favor of the correction officers’ union on April 3, attorneys for the city filed an appeal, the New York Daily News reported.
The appeal put the order to provide PPE to correction officers on hold, despite skyrocketing numbers of positive coronavirus cases across the city and state.
“It is outrageous that we even have to be in Court to ensure our employer protects the lives of our members,” COBA President Elias Husamudeen said. “The city, for the time being, must follow the judge’s order immediately.”
The city has claimed that they did provide some masks to correction officers, just not as many as the union has demanded, the New York Daily News reported.
“The city is deeply concerned about the health and safety of its employees and we are confident that the court will recognize the steps we have taken to ensure our correctional facilities are safe, both for those who serve the city in a very difficult job and the detainees in their custody," a spokesman for the law department said.
As of April 2, officials said 231 inmates and 223 correction employees had tested positive for coronavirus, the New York Daily News reported.
On Monday, the state of New York had 122,139 positive cases of coronavirus with 4,162 fatalities, according to Bing’s COVID-19 Tracker.