Corrections officers union secures free coronavirus testing for members

By: 
Craig McCarthy

The city will provide free coronavirus testing for corrections officers following a weekslong legal battle for supplies and policies to protect guards from infection.

Officers can now visit Northwell Health urgent care sites to get tested for the pandemic COVID-19, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, COBA, announced Thursday.

“Our union has always felt that we should not have to be in court or in the media every day to fight for our members’ safety,” said COBA President Elias Husamudeen. “But since the Department failed to do its job, we needed to leverage every possible resource to help our members during this unprecedented crisis.”

The move by New York City Department of Correction came after Queens court judge Pamela B. Jackman Brown of Queens State Supreme Court ordered the city to provide officers with masks and check them for coronavirus before their shifts late last week.

COBA, which has more 400 positive cases in its ranks, had sued for the supplies.

The city had planned to appeal, but a spokesman for COBA said Thursday “the city folded and decided to put the safety of Correction Officers first.”

Husamudeen added, though, “there’s much more work ahead.”

“[F]rom securing critical line of duty death benefits through legislation that is now making its way through the City Council and the State Legislature, to ensuring that officers who do test positive are not forced to return to work until their personal doctors clear them.”