Something was wrong. The food hall line at New York's Rikers Island jail had halted.
For three hours, the men stood and waited, without food, until a correctional officer quietly delivered the news: A civilian chef was among those who tested positive for the coronavirus.
"We was like, 'What? The cook?'" said Corey Young, who spoke to AP last week by phone from Rikers. He and others wondered if the chef had sneezed on trays or into the food. Some men later floated the idea of a hunger strike to protest.
"I don't want to eat nothing that comes from the state," Young said. "They are not going to take care of us properly here."
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Health experts say prisons and jails are considered a potential epicentre for America's coronavirus pandemic.
They are little cities hidden behind tall fences where many people share cells, sit elbow-to-elbow at dining areas and are herded through halls to the yard or prison industry jobs.
They say it's nearly impossible to keep 2m away from anyone, adding to tensions. Medical services behind bars have long been substandard and even hand sanitiser is considered contraband in some facilities because of its alcohol content.
More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States — more than anywhere else in the world.
But the threat posed by Covid-19 behind bars extends well beyond prison walls. Even though most personal visits have been stopped, hundreds of thousands of guards, wardens and other correctional facility administrators go in and out 24 hours a day, potentially carrying the virus home to their families and communities.
And — as the incarcerated understand better than anyone — jail and prison employees are also the ones most likely to bring the virus into overflowing facilities already grappling with older men and women, those suffering from chronic health conditions and the mentally ill.
Nascimento Blair, locked up at Fishkill Correctional Facility in upstate New York, said one officer had returned from a cruise holiday and was coughing and showing other flu-like symptoms in common areas. That person was eventually sent home, but only after a few days.
"Now we don't even know if we've been exposed," he said, adding there had been one confirmed coronavirus case at his prison, but the men were aware of three others. "And how do you run from this?"
The first positive tests from inside America's correctional facilities started trickling out two weeks ago, with more than 350 cases now confirmed in New York, California, Michigan, Alabama and a dozen other states.
But information and transparency about the number of infections are lacking, and some in custody are afraid to report symptoms because they've seen others being placed in solitary confinement for doing so, several men told AP.
Many correctional departments across the country do not even identify affected facilities, let alone name those who test positive, citing privacy concerns.
"It's like we are expendable," said Blair, from Fishkill. "The last thing you want is to be around someone and not know that that person has it, because that's a potential catastrophe."
Most of the coronavirus cases in jails and prisons so far have been reported from New York City, with the Department of Corrections saying that one of its longest-serving officers passed away at a local hospital and that 104 staff and 132 men in custody have now tested positive at Rikers and city jails alone — five times what was reported just a week ago.
Homer Venters, former chief medical officer of the New York City jail system, said the rise in infection rates at Rikers Island foreshadows what's to come elsewhere.
"America's 7000 jails, prisons, juvenile and immigration detention centres are completely unequipped to handle this pandemic," he said.
He called for authorities to "rapidly empty these facilities of everyone with risk factors for serious illness and death, and create pathways to hospital-level care." If nothing is done, he said, people will die and the virus will spread faster.
The Bureau of Prisons said that the first federal inmate had died of coronavirus. The man, Patrick Jones, 49, had been housed at FCI Oakdale I, a low-security prison in Louisiana and had "long-term, pre-existing medical conditions," the agency said.
Officials said Jones had complained of a persistent cough on March 19 and was taken to a hospital. His condition declined the next day and he was placed on a ventilator. He died at the hospital yesterday. Jones was serving a 27-year sentence for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute near a junior college.
Already, New York, Ohio, Florida and a handful of other states have started letting some people out — the elderly, pretrial detainees, those being held on technical violations and low-level offenders who are at high-risk of severe illness. But some health advocates say thousands more need to be freed.
Youth justice groups in nearly two dozen states are also calling for the release of detained and incarcerated juveniles and a halt to new admissions.
However, new men and women continue to cycle in and out of the prison system and others are still being transferred in crowded vans between facilities, sometimes across state lines. All increasing the chances the virus will spread.
"The same rules that apply out there should apply here," said Antonio Williams, who is serving time at the state's Rush City Correctional Facility, about an hour north of the Minneapolis-St Paul metro area.
He said he and others are paying careful attention to the guidelines issued in the outside world, even though they are all but impossible to follow inside.
"Meeting between 10 or more people should be restricted, right?" Williams said.
"They force us to the chow hall. Literally elbow to elbow. If it comes here, it's gonna spread like wildfire."