Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for covid-19, state prison officials told the Niagara Gazette on Sunday. The 68-year-old who is serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault has now reportedly been isolated at Wende Correctional Facility in in Alden, just outside of Buffalo. He is one of two inmates at the facility who have tested positive and his diagnosis comes as officials warn of a rising number of New York City inmates who are in the same position. Weinstein’s spokesman, one of his attorneys, and his prison consultant all told Variety they could not confirm the news.
The officials who talked to the newspaper said they believed Weinstein was already carrying the virus when he entered the state prison system from Rikers Island in New York City last Wednesday. He had been scheduled to remain at Wende for as long as eight weeks as officials figured out where would be best to send him. During his trial, Weinstein alternated his time between Rikers and a hospital because of his high blood pressure.
News of Weinstein’s diagnosis comes as at least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus inside New York City jails. Jacqueline Sherman, the interim chairwoman of the New York City Board of Correction, sent a letter to state and city officials on Saturday detailing that 21 inmates, 12 Department of Corrections employees, and five Central Health Services workers had tested positive for the virus while an additional 58 are being monitored. Officials had been warning for weeks about the potential disaster if covid-19 began to spread throughout the country’s prison system.
Some in New York have been calling for authorities to free people who are particularly vulnerable to covid-19, including the elderly. Public defenders have said all inmates with pre-existing medical conditions, those over 50, and anyone imprisoned for violating parole should be released. “It is a ticking time bomb,” said Justine Olderman, executive director of the Bronx Defenders. Officers have also called for a suspension of all but essential transfers of inmates from one facility to another. “There is no better breeding ground for this virus than a closed environment such as a correctional facility,” said Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA).
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