Prison, psychiatric facilities post COVID-19 positives

Inmates isolated at Smyrna prison
April 9, 2020

A second inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna tested positive for COVID-19 April 8, following the first case announced a day earlier.

Both inmates were housed in units that had been monitored by healthcare workers over the past week, who conducted temperature checks two times a day, said Paul Shavack, deputy bureau chief of prisons.

The first inmate, who is over the age of 60, registered a fever on April 6, and he was moved immediately to the prison infirmary, where he was isolated and a COVID-19 test was administered, Shavack said. The inmate is receiving treatment in a negative pressure isolation room, and his condition is stable with a normal temperature, he said.

A second inmate from the same housing unit registered a fever during temperature checks April 7; he was isolated in the prison infirmary, tested and found COVID-19 positive.

Two correctional officers who worked in the maximum-security housing area tested positive for COVID-19 in early April. Both self-isolated at home, Shavack said. A healthcare worker also tested positive in early April. Across all DOC facilities, including probation and parole, and special operations, seven officers have tested positive for COVID-19, and three contract healthcare providers.

“DOC's well-established infectious disease containment and mitigation protocols have kicked in to address these COVID-19 cases and keep our facilities and people safe,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. “These inmate patients are receiving excellent treatment, and we are fully prepared to meet the healthcare needs that arise from this illness. As our state approaches the peak of this illness, our officers, employees, and those under our supervision will continue to receive the very best protection.”

In an abundance of caution, Shavack said, DOC is moving inmates from the housing unit in which the COVID-19 patients were housed to a vacant building across the compound that provides more physical separation among the inmates. There, he said, they will continue to be observed twice daily for COVID-19 symptoms.

The DOC has taken the following actions in the adjoining housing units where the COVID-19 inmate was housed:

  • Inmates in both housing units have been placed in quarantine, staffed by correctional officers typically assigned there.
  • Officers assigned to housing units under quarantines are authorized to wear face shields, face masks and gloves at all times.
  • Inmates have been issued face masks.
  • A specialized fogging machine has been used to sterilize the housing units, in addition to multiple, thorough cleanings each day.
  • Inmates in the unit are receiving meals with single-use paper products.
  • Each inmate continues to be closely monitored by healthcare staff, including two temperature checks with a thermometer each day.

DOC continues to screen for anyone entering the facility and isolation of new inmates for 14 days while they are monitored.

In addition, the DOC has temporarily suspended in-person prison programming to reduce group contact. Certain programs, including treatment and education programs, and religious programming, are being transitioned to a virtual video format. Inmates continue to have outside recreation opportunities within their confined areas and continue to have access to phones to stay in regular contact with their loved ones. DOC is also expanding the use of electronic tablets among the inmate population, where available.

Psychiatric center, long-term care facilities post cases

Five patients and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the state psychiatric hospital on the grounds of the Herman Holloway Sr. Campus near New Castle. The patients are isolated within a unit at Delaware Psychiatric Center, officials said. The staff members are self-isolating at their homes.

“Our hearts go out to the patients and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 at DPC,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “Our highest priority is the health and safety of the individuals we care for at DPC, as well as for the staff who provide the care each day. Unfortunately, we know the individuals we care for at DPC often have multiple underlying conditions, which puts them at a higher risk for COVID-19. Staff at our Division of Public Health are working closely with the staff at DPC to review screening and infection control protocols.”

DPC is the seventh care facility in Delaware to report positive COVID-19 cases. To protect the health privacy of residents or patients, DHSS only identifies facilities with multiple cases. The facilities with positives cases include Little Sisters of the Poor in Newark; Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City; and Forwood Manor in Wilmington. Facilities in Kent and Sussex counties have each reported one case. Brandywine Living at Seaside Pointe announced a 92-year-old woman died there March 29 due to COVID-19 complications.

DHSS’ Division of Health Care Quality is working closely with long-term care and other licensed facilities in the state to verify that there are strong screening, infection control and isolation measure in place at each facility, and if, not, to assist them in implementing stronger protocols, officials said.

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