County jail COVID-19 update: 4th worker dies, 26 in custody tested positive, 87 COs self-isolating

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The Hudson County Correctional Facility has seen their fourth fatality in less than a week during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 26 people in custody testing positive since last month, and 87 corrections officers currently on self-quarantine.

Inset photo of Hudson County Correctional Facility Commissary Coordinator Sergio Rossini. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Sergio Rossini, the commissary coordinator at the Hudson County Correctional Facility where he worked for nearly two decades, died yesterday, according to county spokesman Jim Kennelly.

While Kennelly said his cause of death was yet to be determined, at least three of Rossini’s colleagues indicated that he had died due to COVID-19.

“Our Department has been hit hard we lost 4 beloved staff members in 5 days. Praying for their family and our corrections family. #RIP #Ingodshands #godhavemercyonus #godstopthiscoronavirus 🙏🏼💔,” Lizette Izzy Flores posted on Facebook. 

Corrections Officer Bernard Waddell, Sr. died due to coronavirus complications last week, prompting a short tribute from Gov. Phil Murphy, as did the passing of Daisy Doronila – a nurse at the facility.

A second nurse, has since died, Edwin Montanano, making Rossini the third civilian employee of the jail to pass in a span of about 48 hours.

As far as coronavirus testing goes, Kennelly said there are 756 people in custody: 203 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees and 553 local and state inmates, as well as some U.S. Marshal’s Service prisoners.

Since March 6th, 38 people in custody have been tested, 36 results have been returned, and 26 tests have come back positive, Kennelly explained.

Seven of those were ICE detainees (10 total were tested) and four infected with the virus have since been released by ICE.

He added that 22 people have recovered in medical isolation since last month and 87 corrections officers are currently “self-quarantined at home citing a COVID-19 contact or potential COVID-19 symptoms.”

Late last month, a New York federal judge had ordered the release of three ICE detainees at the Hudson County with pre-existing medical conditions.

Rev. Dr. Willard WC Ashley, pastor of Abundant Joy Community Church & a leader with Jersey City Together – a group that has previously called on the state to prioritize COVID-19 testing a priority for recently released inmates – again pushed for more proactive efforts.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of a fourth staff member at the Hudson County Jail. The state health department must prioritize COVID-19 testing in New Jersey’s jails and prisons immediately so that medical professionals can test prior to the onset of symptoms,” Ashley said.

“The Hudson County Jail has infection rates at nearly ten times that of the state as a whole. For staff, the rate is even higher. Proactive testing prior to the onset of symptoms and prior to release is critical to protect the health of staff and those incarcerated, as well as the communities where those individuals return home.”

Kennelly disagreed that the county jail figures were particularly high.

“Five percent of our population in custody has been tested following CDC guidelines for facilities like ours. Of that 5 percent, about two thirds have tested positive. Of the positive, all have recovered in medical isolation or been released by ICE.”