Visitation rights at correctional institutions statewide will remain suspended through Sept. 14, the Florida Department of Corrections announced Tuesday.
“I want to extend my gratitude to the thousands of families who have recognized the importance of protecting our inmate population by suspending visitation,” said FDC Secretary Mark Inch in a statement. “I look forward to the time we can safely welcome them back to visit their loved ones in person. As more and more inmates move out of medical isolation and institutions begin normal operations, we are hopeful visitation will resume very soon. We are developing plans on how to conduct visitation in the safest way possible.”
In a news release, the department said a decision to reinstate visitations will be evaluated in concert with public health experts. Inmates, meanwhile, will continue to have access to the public via mail, phone calls and video visitation.
FDC first suspended visitations at state correctional facilities in early March as a means to keep the novel coronavirus outside of prison walls. Since then, 75 inmates have died while infected with the virus and 15,049 have tested positive. Additionally, 2,306 FDC staff members have tested positive as of Tuesday morning.
Notably, inmates who die while infected with COVID-19, regardless of the cause of death, are categorized as a COVID-19 related death, according to FDC.
Prisons are inherently vulnerable to COVID-19 and have demanded attention from state leaders. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested prisons may pose more of an issue than nursing homes in respect to managing the spread of the virus.
“When you’re talking about a prison, they are a much more challenging situation in terms of finding alternative facilities,” he told reporters.
DeSantis said prisons have received the second most amount of resources behind nursing homes and long-term care facilities.