States across the U.S. are trying to figure out how to best respond to the coronavirus and one answer from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the state’s own brand of hand sanitizer. According to The Hill, the governor announced in a press conference that New York has created its own brand of sanitizer called “NYS Clean.” However, some people aren’t too happy that it’s being created by prison labor.
The sanitizer is said to be made from 75 percent alcohol, which is higher than the Center for Disease Control’s recommended 60 percent and it has a “floral bouquet” smell. The sanitizer is not for sale to the general public but will be provided to school districts and municipalities for free in New York, a state that has over 100 cases of the coronavirus as of Monday.
The labor being used to produce the 100,00 gallons of sanitizer comes from the state’s prison inmates, according to Cuomo. Each gallon takes $6 to make each week at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington, New York.
“It’s much cheaper for us to make it ourselves,” Cuomo said in a Monday press conference.
New York prisoners can make as much as $1.14 an hour and as little as 16 cents an hour, according to the Gothamist in August 2019. Meanwhile, the state’s minimum wage ranges from $15 an hour in New York City to $11.80 an hour upstate.
There aren’t any details yet about how much prisoners ware getting paid to produce the new release of hand sanitizer. New York is also creating their own coronavirus test and waiving testing fees with state insurers in an attempt to calm concerns about high testing costs.
Despite all this, some people still aren’t happy that prison labor is being used to make sanitizer.
“I’d honestly rather get coronavirus than use a single drop of the prison labor produced hand sanitizer,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Prison labor producing sanitizer for a global pandemic. What kind of dystopian future/present is this,” wrote another Twitter user.
New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also called out Cuomo for New York’s use of prison labor for hand sanitizer. “Hoping @NYGovCuomo understands and considers the impact slave & extremely low wage labor has on the prison industrial complex,” he tweeted.
Various states across the U.S. are still trying to figure out how to handle the rapidly growing coronavirus. Many people have criticized Trump and the federal government’s response to the global epidemic. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California released a joint statement urging Trump to put the “health and safety of American people before corporate needs.” They listed asks such as paid sick leave for workers, enhanced unemployment insurance, clear protection for frontline and healthcare workers, widespread and free coronavirus testing, and affordable treatment for all.
As the virus continues to develop, only time will tell if the government officials’ responses are adequate or if they’re deepening already dire issues.