AFSCME Members in Western Maryland Fear Coronavirus Spread in State Facilities & Communities

AFSCME Members in Western Maryland Fear Coronavirus Spread in State Facilities & Communities

Outbreaks Have Hit Prisons and Psychiatric Hospitals Hard In MD and Other States 

WASHINGTON, ALLEGANY, FREDERICK & GARRETT COUNTIES MD – Today, the more than 2,000 AFSCME members who work in Western Maryland Correctional and Juvenile Services facilities, as well as state hospitals, expressed their alarm that state agency heads are failing to take measures to protect employees and their communities from the spread of coronavirus.  The Western Maryland counties currently have relatively few of Maryland’s 8,936 confirmed COVID-19 cases – with 93 in Washington County, 15 in Allegany County and 4 in Garrett County as of April 13. 

In some of the region’s largest employment centers, state employees are reporting a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), a failure to enforce appropriate screening and social distancing, and the absence of plans for identifying steps to take when inmates, children, patients and staff test positive for COVID-19 at these large facilities. 

“Over the weekend, the number of cases in Maryland’s correctional facilities almost doubled.   Juvenile Services workers weren’t even allowed to wear protective masks until this week.  And Potomac Center Staff in Hagerstown are being given two masks to last for a week,” said AFSCME Maryland President Patrick Moran.  “These facilities house men, women and children from across the state, and the lack of urgency from state agencies is placing our members and their neighbors in Western Maryland at risk.”

In Maryland, there already has been an outbreak at the Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital in Howard County, where 22 patients and 4 staff have tested positive for the virus.  Across the country, correctional facilities have experienced a rapid spread of the virus, with more than 700 cases, including 441 employees, in New York at the Rikers Island facility and almost 300 cases at the Cook County jail in Illinois. 

 Western Maryland Juvenile Services Facilities Are Reporting:

  • Lack of Staff Notification: A juvenile at Backbone Mountain Youth Center tested positive for COVID-19 and was transported to Baltimore without notifying staff.  DJS Management has provided no updates on contact with a potential confirmed case or updates on their plans to clean and disinfect facilities after a positive test.
  • Lack of PPE: None of the Western Maryland facilities have masks to provide to employees.
  • No Posted Plans: There are no plans posted or discussed identifying proper procedures if a child or staffer tests positive for COVID-19.

Western Maryland Correctional Facilities Are Reporting:

  • Inconsistent Social Distancing: Recreation halls, food lines and other public spaces within correctional institution are being used in groups inconsistently across facilities, creating limited opportunities for social distancing and confusion for inmates and officers
  • Lack of Appropriate PPE: Face shields fog up and are being reused instead of being thrown away.  Cloth masks are not covering mouths and noses for many employees and make it difficult to breathe.
  • Lack of Staff Notification: Staff are still learning of confirmed and suspected cases through word-of-mouth, preventing them from self-selecting into quarantine or to be tested if they feel that they were exposed.

Western Maryland Health Facilities Are Reporting:

  • No Communication with Patient Families: Even after the outbreak at Clifton T. Perkins hospital and cases at Holly Center and Deer’s Head Hospital Center, no plan has been shared with family members regarding procedures if a patient tests positive for COVID-19. Limited planning and advanced training have left hospitals unprepared and at-risk for potential spread. 
  • Lack of PPE: Potomac Center staff gets two masks per week.  The Finan Center is relying on volunteers to sew cloth masks.
  • Lack of Social Distancing: Staff at the Potomac Center report no social distancing practices are in place at this time.

More than 2000 Employees, 15 Facilities

  • Washington County
    • Maryland Correctional Training Center, 308 employees represented
    • Roxbury Correctional Institution, 256 employees represented
    • Maryland Correctional Institution, 231 employees represented
    • Potomac Center, 145 employees represented
    • Western Maryland Hospital Center, 100 employees represented
    • Western Maryland Children’s Center, 24 employees represented
  • Allegany County
    • North Branch Correctional Institution, 400 employees represented
    • Western Correctional Institution, 320 employees represented
    • Thomas B. Finan Center, 95 employees represented
    • Green Ridge Youth Center, 24 employees represented
  • Frederick County
    • Victor Cullen Center, 50 employees represented
  • Garrett County
    • Backbone Mountain Youth Center, 35 employees represented
    • Meadow Mountain Youth Center, 30 employees represented


AFSCME Maryland is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union for public service employees. We make Maryland happen.