Coronavirus claims the lives of at least 6 NYC correction officers, 1 captain

By: 
CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS

Six correction officers and one captain have died from coronavirus in the last three weeks — and uniformed staffers say they’re frightened more from their ranks will continue to succumb to COVID-19.

Officer David Perez — a department staffer who worked in the investigative division — was the first to die from the disease on March 15.

Since then, Officers Quinsey Simpson, Ely Galan, Elvester McKoy, Connie Jones-Hawkins, Capt. Charles Harris and at least one other correction officer have died from coronavirus, sources told the Daily News.

Apart from Perez, all of the staffers worked at Rikers Island — an epicenter for the outbreak.

The city’s Department of Correction confirmed the death toll on Tuesday. As of Tuesday morning, 406 staff members and 287 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. One inmate — Michael Tyson, who was being held on a technical parole violation — died on Sunday.

Correction officers told The News they feel forgotten by the department they swore to serve.

“Why is this such a secret? They’re losing people. Why aren’t they talking about it?” one officer told The News through tears after learning of Harris’s death.

Correction Department Commissioner Cynthia Brann has yet to publicly speak about the pandemic that has spread like wildfire through Rikers. The News has sent multiple interview requests to Brann through her press secretaries, but the agency’s top boss has yet to respond.

“Nobody has seen her,” Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen told the News. “The reality is she should be out front. You have the police commissioner and commissioners of other agencies out there taking questions. Everyone’s out there except the New York City Department of Correction leader.”

The union sued the department last week, claiming the agency has failed to adequately provide officers the supplies they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Several correction officers — all who spoke to The News on the condition of anonymity — said staffers are faced with working long hours or losing their jobs.

“We’re working doubles every day — 16, 17 hours a day,” one officer told the News, who noted that their tour commander was giving orders over the telephone while officers still had to report to duty in person without proper protective gear.

“They don’t even check if we’re OK or not,” the officer said of department leadership. “Working this much ... is a good way to get sick.”

The jail population has decreased by nearly 1,200 inmates in about three weeks, from 5,557 on March 16 to 4,383 on April 6, city data shows.