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Reports: ‘Unknown substance’ sickens dozens of employees in 10 prisons, leads to statewide lockdown

Authorities are citing the presence of an “unknown substance” at facilities across the state for a department-wide lockdown of all state Pennsylvania Department of Corrections institutions.

According to Fox News, the threat resulted in 29 staff members at 10 separate correctional facilities requiring medical treatment.

As of the latest reports available, the “immediate lockdown” remained enforced on an indefinite basis. Reports indicate all personal mail not originating from a legal source would go undelivered during that period.

What was described as a liquid synthetic drug had not been identified specifically as of initial news reports. Hospital staff indicated the patients affected exhibited signs similar to fentnyl exposure.

As for when the current restricted status might be lifted, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said the agency will “do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our staff.”

He said the his chief concern is “the safety and security of our employees.”

In his statement, Wetzel explained that the Opioid Command Center is working with the department as the investigation continues.

“And Corrections thanks all state agencies for their support, especially the Pennsylvania Department of Health, for providing additional gloves and personal protective equipment,” Wetzel said.

It also remained unclear whether a substance identified as a synthetic cannabinoid that sickened dozens in a Ohio prison was related to the Pennsylvania cases.

“Staff also are being advised to use extra caution when parole violators and new commits are received into the prison system,” the department’s statement explained.