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Morrisey speaks on behalf of COVID-19 testing at rally

The U.S. Senate will be tested for COVID-19, according to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“If it’s good enough for the U.S. Senate to get tested, it’s certainly critical that we protect our first responders in West Virginia. We need those tests,” Morrisey said.

Morrisey spoke Saturday at a rally, off of Exit 7 of I-68 outside Morgantown, to stress the importance of having testing for all first responders in West Virginia. Morrisey said West Virginia has been good at fighting back against coronavirus and plans to continue that fight.

“The last thing we need is to have are new problems dumped on our lap. These are avoidable,” Morrisey said.

The rally was protesting the proposal to transfer prisoners from Washington, D.C., to FCI Hazelton and FCI Gilmer. The transfer of inmates has been called “irresponsible” from Local 420 of The American Federation of Government Employees.

There are 80 confirmed cases in D.C. jails. From 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, community members and organizations gathered on the side of the road, to represent workers at FCC Hazleton.

As previously reported, nearly 3,000 people signed a petition asking prisoners not to be brought to FCI Hazelton and FCI Gilmer becauses of the risk of carrying the coronavirus to prisons free of it.

Michelle Clemmer and Kathy Renner were two who attended the rally to express their concerns. Both Clemmer and Renner are a part of the West Virginia Education Association, the state’s largest teacher organization.

WVEA has been an organization for over 150 years, and Clemmer said as a member and as a teacher it is important to support those who are parents to their students.

“These are our parents. We have their children,” Clemmer said. “Right now, our prisons are uninfected from COVID-19 and if they’re going to bring these prisoners in that potentially are already exposed and contaminated, they’re bringing it to our kids and that is not good for our families.”

Renner said it is personal to her and it was important to attend the rally because she has two students whose parents are guards at the prisons.

“I’m here to support a family and people that I consider family,” Renner said.

AFGE Local 420 President Rick Heldreth said the main goal is to raise public awareness of what the agency is doing. There are approximately 600 members of Local 420 and Heldreath said the protest goes back to the “heart” of their mission: to protect staff and hold their safety to the utmost importance.

Heldreth said last week, FCI Gilmer had an inmate test positive for COVID-19, who came in on a bus.

“This is our worst fear; what we’ve been fighting against these last few weeks and are trying to stop has now happened,” Heldreth said. “We really need our leaders in Washington and the heads of the Bureau of Prisons to wake up and stop this nonsense.”

With the confined space of a prison, Heldreth said it is important to prevent other inmates from coming into their prisons to avoid spreading the virus.
“We work very hard to follow the CDC recommendations and use common sense … we’ve been fortunate so far to keep it out,” Heldreth said. “It’s very hard to stop once it gets inside a prison, considering how close everyone is and the amount of people you have packed in one area. There’s a huge risk of spreading it out in the community and that’s the last thing we want to do.”