8 Vaughn inmates test positive; 2 new deaths in Delaware

Pictured is a newly opened COVID-19 isolation and treatment center at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. Submitted photos/Delaware Department of Correction

SMYRNA — The state announced two additional coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, upping the total to 35 since March 11.

The Delaware Division of Public Health, which also reporteds 146 new positive cases, described the newest fatal cases as:

• A 33-year-old female resident of a long-term care facility in Sussex County who had underlying health conditions.

• An 88-year-old female resident of a long-term care facility in Sussex County who had underlying health conditions.

Persons who have died from COVID-19 were from 33 to 96 years old, DPH said.

On Sunday, the Department of Correction said eight inmates out of 45 tested at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna were found positive for coronavirus. They are all asymptomatic, with no fever, cough or other known symptoms of the virus.

DOC also announced Sunday that one additional correctional officer at JTVCC has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing to 11 those who have tested positive for the illness overall.

The DOC and DPH said no additional information will be provided about victim’s identities for personal health privacy protection.

Delaware has seen 1,625 laboratory-confirmed cases since last month, including 464 and 281 in Sussex and Kent counties, respectively. There have been 725 males and 900 males overall, ranging from 1 to 97 years old.

There are 201 victims currently hospitalized and 51 critically ill. There have been 10,195 preliminary negative cases and 213 Delawareans have recovered, DPH said.

DPH said epidemiologists are transitioning to a new data reporting system. During the transition period, not all fields (county of residence, sex) have complete information.

The Department of Health and Social Services’ DPH and Division of Health Care Quality also released revisions to the Friday announcement of positive cases and deaths in Delaware care facilities, including long-term care facilities. The revisions are:

• HarborChase of Wilmington has one resident death; it was listed as having two.

• New Castle Health and Rehab in New Castle was listed as having three resident deaths; it does not have any deaths among residents.

• Shipley Manor in Wilmington was listed as having multiple positive cases; it does not have any positive resident cases.

• No facilities have reported staff deaths related to COVID-19.

Delaware is considering patients fully recovered seven days after the resolution of their symptoms, DPH said. Three days after symptoms resolve, patients are no longer required to self-isolate at home; however, they must continue to practice strict social distancing for the remaining four days before returning to their normal daily routine.

Widespread community transmission is occurring throughout the state, which means COVID-19 is actively circulating in the community, DPH said.

DPH said it is now reporting deaths of laboratory-confirmed individuals and deaths involving “probable” cases where the individual had clinically consistent symptoms and was exposed to a confirmed case, but was never tested before their death. DPH said this new guidance comes from the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention.

Details on positive DOC cases

The DOC inmates tested had been at a minimum housing unit at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, where four other inmates had tested positive in the last five days.

The DOC said it implemented proactive testing to identify potential COVID-19 cases, and many of the 45 inmates checked had underlying medical issues.

The DOC requested the tests, which were conducted by its contract healthcare provider on Friday. Test results were issued late Saturday night.

By midnight, according to the DOC, seven of the eight inmates were transported to the JTVCC COVID-19 treatment center building, along with two others previously testing positive.

The seven had been moved on Tuesday night to single cells and provided face masks.

The COVID-19 isolation and treatment center at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna is located in a vacant stand-alone building in the compound.

The DOC said one inmate who tested positive last week remains in the hospital in stable condition, with non-life-threatening conditions and not on a ventilator. One inmate who tested positive last week remains in the prison infirmary in stable condition, the DOC said.

According to the DOC, one inmate who tested positive Saturday evening was taken to the hospital as a precaution for monitoring with no COVID-19 symptoms.

“Credit goes to DOC’s healthcare provider Centurion for expediting delivery of the COVID-19 tests and to our dedicated team of medical professionals who tested the at-risk inmates so that we could get the results turned around in less than 20 hours,” said DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. “Had we not taken this preventative step, we may not have known for days, a week or longer, if ever, of these asymptomatic results.”

With only 12 inmates who have tested positive, DeMatteis said, “It is important to keep in perspective that with 4,200 inmates under DOC custody in Level V prison facilities, three-tenths of one percent have tested positive — all contained in one housing unit at one correctional facility. None are life-threatening and eight have no symptoms.”

The correctional officer was last at the facility on April 3. After beginning to experience flu-like symptoms, the officer began to self-isolate at home, and as symptoms developed the officer sought medical attention, at which time a COVID-19 test was administered, the DOC said.

The positive COVID-19 test result was received by the officer on Thursday. The officer is now recovering at home.

As part of the DOC’s COVID-19 operating procedures, each facility has identified housing units to serve as isolation and treatment centers to be used as needed to house and care for inmates who have tested positive for the illness.

The JTVCC COVID-19 treatment center, which is located in a vacant stand-alone building on the compound, was activated Saturday night and is housing nine inmates who have tested positive and do not require treatment in the prison infirmary or hospitalization. These inmates are being housed in single-bed cells and are receiving round-the-clock monitoring by healthcare and security staff.

Guarding against the spread

The DOC said it is employing a variety of prevention, screening, cleaning and containment measures to guard against the spread of the novel coronavirus, including:

• All persons, including Officers, administrative staff and Probationer, who enter any Probation and Parole Office and any person entering any Level IV violation of probation and work release and Level V prison facility are screened for COVID-19, including a series of questions and a forehead temperature check with a digital thermometer.

• Staff who present with symptoms are sent home to self-quarantine and directed to contact their health care provider.

• Newly arriving inmates are held in isolation for the first 14 days, during which they are carefully monitored, including daily temperature checks with a thermometer.

• DOC has implemented extra daily cleaning of DOC facilities and is using specialized fogging machines to disinfect entire rooms of common areas, housing units and workspaces.

• Face masks are being worn by Correctional Officers and contract healthcare workers as a protection for inmates, Officers and other employees. Face masks are also being provided to inmates who are in infirmaries, those with compromised immune systems, and certain inmates with institutional jobs, including food service workers.

• Most Probationer visits with Probation Officers were transitioned to phone check-ins starting last month to support social distancing measures.

In addition, the DOC has temporarily suspended in-person prison programming to reduce the movement of people into facilities and movement of groups of people within facilities. 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.

Safety precaution guidelines

DPH said anyone sick with any of the following symptoms, stay home: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle fatigue, or digestive symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite. If you are sick and need essential supplies, ask someone else to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy.

Also, persons who think they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have symptoms of illness, make sure to distance from others, particularly vulnerable populations. Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions — including serious heart conditions, chronic lung conditions, including moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity and those who are immunocompromised, including through cancer treatment — might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Statewide testing at standing health facility testing sites require a physician’s order or prescription to be tested. Bayhealth patients will be pre-screened via phone without needing to see a provider first. These are not walk-in testing sites.

Those without a primary care provider can call the DPH Call Center Line at 1-866-408-1899. In New Castle County, individuals can call ChristianaCare at 733-1000 and Sussex County residents who do not have a provider can call the Beebe COVID-19 Screening Line at 645-3200. Individuals awaiting test results should wait to hear back from their medical provider. The DPH Call Center does not have test results.

Anyone with a question about COVID-19, whether related to medical or social service needs, should call Delaware 211; or 711 for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or text your ZIP code to 898-211. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

In addition, DPH asks any Delaware health care, long-term care, residential, or other high-risk facility with questions or concerns to email: DPH_PAC@delaware.gov or call the DPH Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.

Questions can also be submitted to DPHCall@delaware.gov.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 1 guidance

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