If you think someone who is incarcerated in the facility is sick with COVID-19 (see COVID-19 symptoms), activate your emergency plan and notify local public health officials. Ensure that the sick person is wearing a clean, disposable facemaskpdf icon, and separate the sick person from others, ideally within an individual housing space and bathroom. Provide them with tissues for when they cough or sneeze, and a lined trash receptacle when possible.


Staff evaluating and providing care for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases should follow the CDC Interim Clinical Guidance for Management of Patients with Confirmed Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and monitor the guidance website regularly for updates to these recommendations. Facilities without on-site healthcare staff should contact their state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health department to coordinate effective isolation and necessary medical care. Ensure only trained personnel wearing recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) have contact with or transport individuals who have or may have COVID-19.


People who are incarcerated and have COVID-19 should be placed under medical isolation in a separate room, ideally with solid walls and a solid door that closes fully. If not available, refer to the full guidance document for other options for medical isolation. If multiple people become ill with COVID-19:

  • Make every effort to house each ill person individually, with their own bathroom. Refer to the full guidance document for additional options if individual spaces are not available.
  • Prioritize those at high risk for complications of COVID-19 (older adults, people with severe underlying chronic medical conditions) for individual spaces that are available.


To prevent further spread:

  • Use options for virtual court appearances, if possible.
  • Suspend group gatherings.
  • Limit non-medical transfers of people within and between facilities. Ensure that anyone transferred out is screened for symptoms and contact with a COVID-19 case before leaving the facility.
  • Ensure that release planning includes screening for COVID-19 symptoms and contact with a case. Coordinate with local public health officials if releasing a symptomatic person to the community.
  • Use multiple social distancing strategies.
  • Handle laundry and food items of possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19 with recommended PPE.
  • Suspend visitation or offer non-contact visitation only.
  • Consider quarantining all new entrants for 14 days before they enter the facility. (Make sure that new entrants under quarantine are housed separately from other incarcerated people already under quarantine due to contact with a COVID-19 case.)
  • If releasing someone to a community facility (e.g., a homeless shelter), contact the facility’s staff to ensure adequate time for them to prepare to continue medical isolation, and coordinate with local public health officials.


Provide clear information to staff and people who are incarcerated about the presence of COVID-19 cases within the facility. Close contacts of the sick person (who have been within 6 feet of the sick person or had direct contact with infectious droplets, such as from a cough or squeeze) should be placed under quarantine for at least 14 days. Follow CDC guidance on quarantining close contacts of people with COVID-19.


If separate spaces for individual quarantined people are not available, refer to the full guidance document for other options. Monitor symptoms twice per day and move anyone developing symptoms to medical isolation right away (after ensuring they are wearing a face mask). Quarantined people at high risk for complications of COVID-19 (older adults, people with severe underlying chronic medical conditions) should not be housed with other quarantined people if at all possible.

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