In-person visitations at the Erie County Correctional Facility have been temporarily suspended due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated individual population, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia announced Tuesday.

The Division of Correctional Health says there are 15 confirmed COVID cases among the incarcerated population and the number is expected to increase.

"My administration, working with the Jail Management Division and the Division of Correctional Health, has paused in-person visitation to protect those in our custody," Garcia said in a statement. "I understand that visits benefit the incarcerated population and their families, but I have to consider their health and limit their exposure to COVID and other viruses.”

Sheriff Garcia says that while the goal is return to in-person visits as soon as possible, safety has to be prioritized. 

“I want to have in-person visits as soon as safely possible. However, my responsibility is to ensure the safety of those in our custody. As our facilities experience a decrease in infection rates, my administration will review in-person visitations,” Garcia added.

The sheriff’s office says it monitors the rate of illness weekly and follows current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.