$1.1M in COVID fighting tech for Missouri prisons; doctors say best weapon remains outside

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ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Department of Corrections says it’s one of the first in the nation to spend money on the newest COVID-fighting technology. $98,000 is being spent on wastewater collecting equipment to better track COVID trends. $814,000 pays for nearly 1,500 air purifiers. $256,000 is paying for electrostatic sprayers and the disinfectant that goes with it.

“We’ll be spraying the common areas and all of the facilities and some of our offices to try to kill COVID on the surface,” said Karen Pojmann, a DOC spokesperson.

The electrostatic sprayers are similar to what we showed you is being used by the Ft. Zumwalt School District. Pojmann says the million dollars plus in technology breaks down to about $12 per person in the corrections system and is being paid for by CARES Act funding.

“This is a new step to just clean the virus in the air, which is fantastic,” she said.

Missouri prisons are now dealing with 170 active inmate cases and 41 deaths. An outbreak in November led to mysterious prison transfers – like that of Ronnie McGowan, who we first reported on in November.  His wife, Kanoi Arms, discovered he was quietly moved from Potosi to Bonne Terre and quarantined with more than 50 other inmates.

“They just moved them, kept them there for 14 days, and then moved them back. He never received a test when they got there or leaving,” she said. “None of the people at the central office in Jefferson City were even aware that these transfers had taken place.”

She says she’s still waiting for answers and a response on a grievance she and her husband have filed on behalf of all inmates.

“They’re still human beings and they still have you know the right to be treated as such and I just feel like to a certain degree his health was place in jeopardy,” she said.

Pojmann says Missouri is leading the way with testing and is only second to Texas in obtaining COVID fighting technology.

“They’ve had a dramatic decrease in COVID infections there aside from that. I’m not aware of any other prison systems that are using these approaches to try to combat the virus,” she said.

FOX 2 asked the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force whether it endorses this type of technology. Dr. Alex Garza said it’s fine and that “every little bit helps,” but emphasized that the most effective way to keep COVID out of the prisons is to control it better here on the outside.

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