Feds refused to test inmates for coronavirus at Manhattan jail despite symptoms, ex-con tells Daily News

An American Flag is seen flying on half-staff outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 12, 2019.
An American Flag is seen flying on half-staff outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 12, 2019.(Luiz C. Ribeiro / for New York D)

Federal inmate Gregory Ferrer had a hacking cough, couldn’t smell and had a raging headache for days when he asked guards at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan if he could get a coronavirus test.
He was bluntly rejected and told to wait until he got out of jail to deal with his symptoms, Ferrer told the Daily News.
“My bunkie started saying, ‘I can’t taste my food.’ We was coughing up a storm and I had a headache for days,” said Gregory Ferrer, who was released April 2 after he finished his 30-month sentence at the MCC for being a felon in possession of a firearm. “I asked them for a test. They said, basically you gotta wait until you get outside, that they’re not doing none of that.”
Ferrer has asthma and claims he was also denied an inhaler when he began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
His claims underscore the Federal Bureau of Prison’s own numbers. A report released Friday by the BOP shows only five of more than 700 inmates at the MCC have been tested for coronavirus — and four out of five tested positive for the disease.
“The MCC’s refusal to test Mr. Ferrer, despite his COVID-19 symptoms and his chronic asthma, reflects an institution that has consistently minimized the extent of the crisis,” said Ferrer’s lawyer Martin Cohen, who works for the Federal Defenders of New York.
He started experiencing symptoms around March 22, a few days after jail guards gave him a new cellmate from “the streets” despite Ferrer pleading to not get a new cellmate in the few days he had left in the jail, over fear of catching coronavirus, Ferrer said.
Manhattan’s MCC has tumbled into chaos in recent months, since high-profile predator Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself at the lockup in August. The jail was locked down for two weeks in March amid reports of a loaded gun smuggled into the building. Just as that lockdown was lifted, visits by attorneys and family were suspended pending the coronavirus outbreak.
Ferrer’s nightmare at the lockup started before his COVID-19 symptoms, he said.

After authorities conducted a full jail search for the gun smuggled into the facility on March 8, Ferrer was returned to his cell, where he said his toilet had been broken during the search. For more than a week after that, every time he flushed his toilet, feces spilled out of the toilet one cell over. When the inmate one cell over flushed, feces spilled into Ferrer’s cell.

The toilet was fixed eight days later, on March 16, Ferrer said.

“It was to the point where every time we walked out the cell to get to the shower we had to walk through feces water. I smelled feces and urine for the whole time that I been in the cell,” Ferrer said. “How y’all got us living in feces water?”

The BOP did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Now, Ferrer is out of jail and home in the Bronx, quarantined in his room, still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

“Right now, I still can’t smell. You could spray perfume right now and I can’t smell,” Ferrer said. “Only thing I feel good about is being free, other than that I feel the same.”

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