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20 May 2020

Philadelphia Department of Prisons Announces Testing of All Incarcerated Individuals

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May 20, 2020 Category: Coronavirus, Local Posted by:

City of Philadelphia–As part of the Philadelphia Department of Health’s (PDPH) expanded testing criteria for congregate settings, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons (PDP) announced that it will begin testing all incarcerated individuals for COVID-19 coronavirus. The process will begin tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, and is expected to take up to two weeks to test the entire PDP population.

The expansion includes testing all asymptomatic people currently incarcerated as well as newly admitted people entering PDP’s facilities. Previously, testing was only available to those experiencing symptoms. Expanded testing will also include people who are pending transfer to a different correctional facility. These individuals will be tested for COVID-19 coronavirus three to five days before their transfer. PDP will continue to test symptomatic individuals as part of its previously established protocols.


Isolation space will continue to be provided to all people who test positive within PDP facilities. Incarcerated individuals will be removed from isolation when the following three criteria have been met:

  1. It has been 14 days after symptom onset (21 days for those who are severely immunocompromised);
  2. The patient is showing no fever for three days without fever-reducing medications; and
  3. There is improvement in respiratory symptoms.

The Department of Prisons has closely followed CDC recommendations to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the facility, and it is succeeding. In early April there were 10 or more prisoners testing positive every day, but in the past 10 days only two inmates have tested positive.

Since March 27, 2020, 276 symptomatic incarcerated individuals were tested for COVID-19 coronavirus at PDP facilities. One hundred and ninety seven of the 276 people tested (71%) were confirmed positive. PDPH will continue to report daily case counts for PDP facilities on its COVID-19 testing and data page.

Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center (PJJSC): PJJSC, the city’s only juvenile detention center operated by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, will also begin testing all youth beginning Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Youth are held at PJJSC at the request of the Courts while they wait for their cases to be heard. Since the outset of the epidemic, PJJSC has worked with advocates and partners including the District Attorney’s Office, the Courts and Probation to move as many youth as possible to community-based services or to other appropriate placements. To date, two youth have tested positive of COVID-19 coronavirus and both have recovered.

Mayor Visits Engine 43 for National EMS Week: In recognition of National EMS Week (May 17-23), Mayor Kenney stopped by Engine 43/Ladder 9/Medic 7 in Center City this morning to thank paramedics and EMTs for their dedicated service, especially during the pandemic. The Philadelphia Fire Department responds to about 750 EMS incidents each day, from car accidents and cardiac arrests to shootings, strokes and suspected COVID-19 cases.

Testing Site Finder: A new testing site finder at helps people find a free COVID-19 test in Philadelphia. Anyone can search for a site by address, click on a map location for specific site information, and filter by day of week and by drive-thru or walk-up.

Each of the testing sites has its own requirements, and that information is included for each location on the map. For example, some sites require referrals, appointments, or certain criteria for patients. No sites require payment, insurance, or proof of citizenship. Residents are strongly encouraged to call first for an appointment or referral; all necessary phone numbers are available on the map.

The finder is available in six languages, and the map will continue to be updated as new testing sites are opened.

Expanded Testing Standards: The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is now recommending COVID-19 coronavirus testing for anyone regardless of age who has a new cough, is experiencing new shortness of breath, or two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, new loss of taste or smell. The expansion of testing recommendations comes as a result of the increasing availability of coronavirus testing at public health and commercial laboratories. Increased testing for the coronavirus is a key part of the City’s and Pennsylvania’s plan to re-open safely. More details can be found here.

COVID-19 Resources:

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