Corrections department provides COVID-19 update

DOVER – The Delaware Department of Correction continues to aggressively test, trace, clean and treat to combat inmate COVID-19 cases at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown.

Last week, the DOC announced that after six weeks with no inmates testing positive for COVID-19 in any of the state’s correctional facilities, a cluster of inmate cases was identified at SCI, the first inmate cases at that facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Every inmate at SCI is being tested as part of our comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation efforts at that facility, and because the illness is present in several housing units, we know that the number of positive test results will grow,” DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a statement.“Three-quarters of the COVID-positive inmates have no symptoms of illness, and thanks to our proactive testing we are identifying these inmates early.

“We are prepared to isolate and treat every COVID-positive inmate, in collaboration with our correctional health care provider. We are activating a COVID-19 Treatment Center at SCI this week and are continuing to work aggressively to contain and eradicate the illness at that facility.”

Last week, after three inmates at SCI showed symptoms of COVID-19 infection and tested positive for the illness, the DOC immediately initiated contact tracing to identify, isolate and proactively test individuals who came into sustained contact with these inmates. After new inmate test results were received, additional mitigation measures were implemented on top of DOC’s existing COVID protocols, including:

  • All inmates in the housing units in which the COVID-positive inmates had been assigned were quarantined and began receiving twice daily temperature checks, screenings for symptoms and pulse oxygen level testing.
  • All SCI inmates (nearly 900) were issued face masks.
  • All SCI inmates are being tested for the illness. Testing was prioritized for inmates over 60 years of age and those with underlying health conditions, and three dozen SCI inmates over 60 and those with underlying health conditions who have tested negative for COVID-19 are being moved to a vacant housing building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna to keep them in a COVID-free environment. 
  • In-person visitation at SCI was suspended as a precaution to protect inmates and staff from transmission of the illness.
  • All programming was temporarily suspended in an effort to restrict movement across the facility.  Inmates are continuing to be provided recreation time, including in outside recreation areas.
  • Voluntary COVID-19 testing is being offered to all SCI staff.
  • Additional deep cleanings are being conducted, including decontamination of housing units with specialized fogging machines.
  • SCI is not accepting any new commits on a temporary basis.

As of Wednesday, 122 inmates have active COVID-19 infections, including 95 who are asymptomatic of illness and 27 who are symptomatic. A total of 119 are from SCI and three are from Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover.

Preliminary indications suggest the MCCC inmates who tested positive this week can be traced to inmates who had recently arrived from SCI and tested positive for COVID-19 while being quarantined during intake.

A total of 70 COVID-positive inmates have been transferred to the COVID-19 Treatment Center at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, one is being treated in the JTVCC infirmary, and three are being treated in stable condition in area hospitals. There have been 48 SCI inmates who most recently tested positive being held in isolation and will be moved to the SCI COVID-19 Treatment Center this week.

Currently across all correctional facilities, 22 DOC staff and three health care contractors have tested positive for COVID-19, while 87 DOC staff and health care contractors assigned to DOC facilities have recovered from the illness. No additional information will be provided about the identity of the inmates or staff members for privacy protection.

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 2 guidance

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