The mother of a Florida corrections officer who died after contracting COVID-19 is speaking out, describing what she calls a lack of preparedness at the state facility where he worked.
Lawana Brown told News4Jax her 23-year-old son, Londell Woodbury, died Oct. 2, fifteen days after he was diagnosed with the illness. She said her son, who aspired to become a detective, was exposed to the virus at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler.
Brown doesn’t believe her son wasn’t given proper personal protective equipment to keep him from getting sick. Even after his diagnosis, she said, his supervisors told him to downplay the illness so that he could continue working at the state-run corrections facility.
“The last day he worked, he came home and…he said, ‘Stay at the car,’ and he said, ‘Mom, don’t come close to me, don’t come close to me. I think I might have (COVID-19),’” Brown said.
According to figures provided by the Department of Corrections, 131 staffers and 316 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Lake Butler facility since the pandemic began. There are an estimated 338 inmates in medical quarantine and eight more in medical isolation.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections said the state’s prisons strictly follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that aim to limit the spread of the contagious illness.
Brown isn’t convinced the proper protocols were followed in her son’s case.
“They asked him if he had been exposed to COVID-19 and he said yes because he knew he had been exposed to several employees that work there and they had it,” she recalled. “They tried to coach him into saying no, so that he could still work. That’s what he told me, he told me, ‘Mom, I’m not going to lie because it could still come back on me, so I’m not going to lie.’”
Besides her son, Brown said she’s heard concerning things from other prison employees.
“I’ve been told by several guards that they’re not being given the adequate equipment when they go into a facility area that has a high concentration for (COVID-19), so I’d like for them to make sure that they have all the proper equipment,” she said.
In response to questions from News4Jax, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady issued this statement Monday:
“The department is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Correctional Officer Londell Woodbury. The entire FDC family passes on our condolences and prayers to the family, however the Florida Department of Corrections is not allowed to officially provide confirmation on his cause of death, due to privacy laws.”
Glady said all corrections staff have been issued, and were required to wear, face coverings. She said they also have access to latex gloves, eye protection and Tyvek suits. Glady said these measures fall in line with the CDC’s guidance of correctional and detention facilities.