Wednesday, May 6, 2020


Wednesday, April 29, 2020, 11:25 a.m., Tomoka C.I., Daytona Beach, FL

Good morning from the ''Hot Spot.'' There continues to be some confusion as to the confirmed COVID-19 positive tests here, with the numbers close to 89 prisoners and 12 staff. News reports say Tomoka has the most positive tests in Florida, but those numbers most likely will increase over the next few days.

This morning the nurses announced that voluntary virus tests would be offered for some inmates in dorm K-2. They called about 12 names, mostly older inmates, including my name. Yes, I volunteer for the test. The nurse ran a long swab to the back of my nasal passage, uncomfortable, but it lasted only a few moments. Results in a couple days, the nurse said. I feel fine, no symptoms, but I want to know.

Disturbing news reports of great suffering, hardship and deaths from the virus, from all age groups, are sobering for prisoners who are helpless to aid their families. The least we can do is cooperate with those trying to keep us alive, at the risks to their own health.

Previous tests were reserved for prisoners exhibiting symptoms. Federal prisoner testing has found that a large percentage of positive tests were asymptomatic, showing no symptoms. More widespread testing is expected to turn up similar state results. Temperature checks were all negative for my dorm.

We are waiting for lunch now. Meager breakfast, one peanut butter sandwich, a cup of dry cereal, and an apple.

Back when I have more to report.

1:27 p.m. The long-awaited lunch arrived: six small artificial meatballs, pasta with a small serving of tomato sauce, mixed vegetables, dry pinto beans, cornbread, a cookie, and another green orange. Pretty good meal for prison, filling. No one threw it out. Now it is quiet, most of the bedlam and cacophony quieted down with the full bellies. The regular daytime TV watchers are sitting rapt watching soap operas.

Don't think that these meals served at Tomoka are typical of the prison system as a whole. Men transferring in from other prisons rave about the taste and servings of the chow hall food here, compared to the swill served in most other prisons. The Reception and Medical center at Lake Butler was considered the pinnacle of prison chow when I came into the system over forty years ago. A big sign in the chowhall said, ''TAKE WHAT YOU WANT, EAT WHAT YOU TAKE.'' An officer stood by the swill barrel on the way out, and if there was anything edible on your tray, you had to eat it. Only bones and peelings went into the barrel. Each table had a bottle of hot sauce, salt and pepper shakers, and a paper napkin dispenser. Those days are gone.

Now I am waiting for the long queue at the JPAY kiosk to shorten, so I can ''sync'' my tablet, get the daily AP News downloaded. $4.99 a month--a deal.

They moved out everyone in ''K-1,'' the dorm next door. No one knows why. Anything could be in the works. They don't confide in us. It's early in the day--anything could happen-so I will bide my time, see if anything develops.

5:22 p.m. Breaking News--Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is announcing the slow reopening of Florida starting May 4th. ''Protect the vulnerable'' is the first requirement of five, to be implemented. No word on the status of prisons.

All the best, to all.


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