Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield. Photo courtesy of WNPR

The Department of Correction is allowing inmates held in medical isolation or quarantine units to shower every other day, reversing a policy instituted earlier this month.

An internal memo sent by Deputy Commissioner Angel Quiros on Thursday says that, effective immediately, inmates in quarantine or medical isolation will be permitted to shower every other day. The showers will be cleaned and disinfected between use.

An agency memo issued May 1 said showers were temporarily suspended for inmates held in those units.

“CDC guidelines speak to the increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection through aerosols. Knowing that showers, both hot and cold, produce aerosols and droplets, our current policy substitutes showers for in-cell washing with a basin and appropriate hygiene supplies for the quarantine and isolation units only,” Karen Martucci, DOC spokesperson, previously told the CT Mirror in an email. “Based on the unique challenges the congregate prison environment presents, including an infrastructure where showers and sleeping quarters are in the same room, we have acted with an abundance of caution when creating internal policy.”

Asked about the DOC’s shower suspension last week, a CDC spokesperson said the federal agency “doesn’t have specific guidance to showering in congregate settings.”

“Individuals who are in medical isolation or quarantine should ideally have their own bathroom dedicated for their [use,]” said the CDC’s Bert Kelly. “If people are cohorted, then this would mean having dedicated bathrooms for those in medical isolation, and dedicated bathrooms for each quarantine cohort. We do not state that showers should be limited for people in these situations, only that the locations should be segregated to prevent transmission.”

In a statement, Martucci said, “One thing that has remained certain throughout the pandemic has been the fact that our policies have changed and changed often based on the fluid nature of the guidance from the [CDC.]”

Martucci said the department has revised its plans to include shower opportunities for everyone in its prisons and jails, including those in quarantine or medical isolation.
Our challenge throughout this crisis has been trying to balance health protections, safety and security considerations and human dignity,” Martucci said. “It’s a delicate balance and it requires modifications along the way.”
This story was updated at 3:21 p.m. with a statement from the Department of Correction.

Kelan is a Report For America Corps Member who covers the intersection of mental health and criminal justice for CT Mirror. Before joining CT Mirror, Kelan was a staff writer for City Weekly, an alt weekly in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a courts reporter for The Bryan-College Station Eagle, in Texas. He is originally from Philadelphia.

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