(WXYZ) — For the first time in more than a year, inmates in the Michigan Department of Corrections can see their friends and families in person.
In-person visitation resumes within MDOC starting Friday, with strict safety protocols in place. These include mandatory temperature checks and a rapid antigen test for visitors prior to entering a facility.
Visitors must also wear an MDOC-provided mask during their entire visit. For now, physical contact is still not allowed.
For Elder Yusef Qualls, even the chance to see his son through plexiglass means the world.
“The very day that they open it up, if I’m able to be there, I’ll be there," Qualls said. His son, Yusef, is housed in the Macomb Correctional Facility.
“He went in with a life with no chance of parole sentence, but with the pandemic being as it is, that becomes quite realistically a death sentence in many cases," he said.
Yusef is healthy, but recently, his cell mate contracted COVID-19, prompting a move within the facility. There is also the added concern over the B.1.1.7 variant. Last week, state officials reported that more than half of the cases with the variant in Michigan are within MDOC, with 15 cases reported at Macomb Correctional.
As of this Wednesday, Michigan has the second-highest number of B.1.1.7 variant cases in the nation, behind Florida.
The vast majority of the variant cases reported within MDOC are at Bellamy Creek in Ionia, which remains under a full quarantine, hindering in-person visits.
"It's absolutely a race against the variant," said Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "We do know the variant is present, it is more transmissible, which makes those mitigation measures even more important."
Outside of concerns over the variant, COVID-19 cases overall in Michigan are also on the rise, with positive cases surging nearly 82 percent since the start of March.
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