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Corrections department installing air purifiers, mist cleaners


EXCLUSIVE — The Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) is installing air purifiers and mist cleaners to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among staff and inmates. 

Installation of more than 1,400 ionization generators is underway, the department said in a news release first shared with The Missouri Times. The devices can destroy 99.4 percent of the virus within 30 minutes as well as eliminate other toxins and allergens, DOC said. 

The generators will “soon” be installed in all of Missouri’s prisons, community supervision centers, other state-owned facilities, and the Transition Center of St. Louis. 

Additionally, the department said it is securing “electrostatic disinfectant sprayers” that emit a mist killing COVID-19 and other pathogens on contact, the department said. Corrections offices and common areas will be treated with the disinfect regularly, according to DOC. 

Probation and parole districts already have 20 of the sprayers, but an additional 20 are being procured for other adult institutions. 

All of the new systems are covered by CARES Act funding, Karen Pojmann, communications director for the DOC, said. While there is no estimate for the misters, the air purifiers cost $555 each, totaling $814,740. When breaking down the cost to include all of the DOC people affected — about 23,500 inmates; 10,000 staff members; and 64,000 probation and parole clients — the purifiers are estimated to cost about $8 per person, Pojmann said. 

DOC is using the EMist system and the iWave, produced by a St. Louis-based company, for these cleaning efforts. 

Aside from the new technology, DOC also partnered with the Department of Natural Resources and the University of Missouri to test wastewater for COVID-19 starting in July. 

DOC “has installed composite systems at all sites and now conducts its own wastewater testing, using the data collected to help identify and isolate infected people, slowing the spread of the virus,” the department said. 

As of Monday, 36 offenders and four DOC staff members have died due to COVID-19. The department said about 2 percent of offenders are currently affected by the virus. More than 72,000 tests have been administered by the department to date. 

The department reported 455 active cases among inmates and 129 among prison staff as of Monday. 

Statewide, about 22,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the last seven days, and 77 people have died during that time frame. The positivity rate hovers just under 20 percent with 2,550 individuals hospitalized, including nearly 600 in the ICU and 355 on ventilators.