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CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Nash prison installing air purifiers to fight virus

Posted on January 11, 2021

Local newsCOVID-19
Inmates play basketball at Nash Correctional Institution in April, weeks after such recreational activities were to be suspended to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Lindell J. Kay | Enterprise file photo

Inmates play basketball at Nash Correctional Institution in April, weeks after such recreational activities were to be suspended to fight the spread of COVID-19.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

MOMEYER — The state is installing air purifiers in all of its prisons, including Nash Correctional Institution.

The medium-security prison was the site of last month’s worst coronavirus breakout in the state prison system.

The coronavirus ran wild at the prison last month. By mid-December, 150 of 630 inmates had been infected, and one had died. Another inmate died Christmas Day.

The COVID-19 spread wasn’t limited to the prison, Nash County ZIP code 27804 topped every location in the state for the number of coronavirus deaths.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Nash County has risen to 6,611 with 127 deaths. As of Jan. 8, 53 patients were hospitalized at Nash UNC Health Care.

“The Nash County Health Department has started to implement COVID-19 vaccination services and will no longer send out data on the number of individuals recovered and isolated at home due to the increasing demand for vaccinations,” said Jerome Garner, public health education specialist and the department’s public information officer.

A Thursday event the health department held at Nash Central High School in Rocky Mount to vaccinate senior citizens against coronavirus led to long lines as more people showed up than the number of vaccines available.

Nearly 4,000 air purifiers are being installed in the ductwork of 53 North Carolina prisons in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, said John Bull, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

The air ionizers work by making the virus particles heavier and easier to filter. The IWave air purifiers were bought last month at a cost of $1.8 million.

“The health and safety of the staff and the offenders in our custody is our No. 1 priority,” said Todd Ishee, commissioner of prisons. “These devices will help to stop the airborne spread of the virus in our facilities and is another tool to use in our ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of this awful virus.”

Around 20% of the installations have been completed and the project is anticipated to be finished by early next month. The prison system’s facility management staff is installing the purifiers with the assistance of staff in central engineering and the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Safety, Occupational and Environmental Health, Bull said.

IWave is an air purifying device that installs in any duct air conditioning system. When air passes over the IWave, ions produced by the device reduce pathogens, allergens, particles, smoke and odors in the air, creating a healthful environment without producing any harmful byproducts.

These air purifying systems are in use in some other prison systems across the country, including Missouri and South Carolina, as well as at Wake Forest and Duke universities and at Duke Medical Center.

“We look forward to seeing air quality benefits across North Carolina’s prison system for years to come,” Ishee said. 

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