The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections on Tuesday said it would be temporarily suspending visitation and volunteering at all state-run prisons as Louisiana is reporting record surges in COVID-19 infections among its largely unvaccinated population.
The corrections agency announced in a press release that the suspension would remain in place until Aug. 16, at which point the department “will review and reconsider the need for these measures.”
The move, which will immediately take effect at Louisiana's eight state-run prisons, was being taken “out of an abundance of caution concerning the latest surge of COVID-19 positive cases in Louisiana,” the department said.
Visits had been reinstated at state prisons in March after a nearly yearlong suspension due to COVID-19 as several prisons across the country recorded virus outbreaks among inmates and staff.
As of July 21, there were 26 active COVID-19 infections among Louisiana prison staff, with none recorded among prisoners, according to state data.
The Louisiana corrections department said that while the visitation suspension is in place, inmates will continue to be offered two free phone calls per week, with video calling also available for a fee.
The department said it “continues to make vaccinations available to all inmates,” with 68 percent of those incarcerated at Louisiana's state-run prisons already voluntarily vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The DOC continues COVID screening with temperature checks and questions for anyone entering the state's prisons, including staff and vendors,” the department added. “The DPS&C has reminded its staff and inmates on social distancing and hand washing practices to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus.”
The announcement comes the same day that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced 169 new coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state, the largest single-day increase since March 2020.
The Louisiana Department of Health also recorded 6,797 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the second-highest single-day surge since Jan. 6, when 6,882 cases were reported.
Edwards, who on Friday released updated guidance urging all residents to wear masks indoors when social distancing is not possible, said in his statement Tuesday that roughly 90 percent of the nearly 1,4000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state have not been vaccinated.
“As I said recently, this surge is on us, and that means it is up to each of us to do our part to bring it to an end. It’s within our power,” the governor said. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. It is the best way to put it behind us.”
The White House has labeled Louisiana a “state of concern” in the fight against COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that just about 41 percent of Louisiana’s population has received at least one COVID-19 shot, with about 37 percent fully vaccinated.