DOC corrections officer tests positive for COVID-19

DOVER — A corrections officer assigned to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center has tested positive for coronavirus, Department of Correction officials said Friday.

The officer was last at Vaughn on Friday, March 27, said Deputy Bureau Chief of Prisons Paul G. Shavack in a release. The officer began to self-isolate at home after experiencing flu-like symptoms the next day, and sought medical attention Sunday, March 29, Mr. Shavack said.

A test was administered while the officer remained at home, self-isolating, Mr. Shavack said. The test results were returned on Friday as positive.

“DOC launched aggressive prevention and screening practices for COVID-19 before the virus entered our State, and as community spread has increased across Delaware we have prepared for the increased risk of an infection by officers or inmates,” Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said in a prepared statement. “We already undertake comprehensive daily cleaning in all of our facilities, and that will continue with renewed urgency. I want to emphasize that at this time there is no evidence of transmission within James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. In response to this diagnosis, we will carefully monitor all officers, other employees and inmates at the facility for any symptoms and will immediately isolate, assess and treat any individual who demonstrates any sign of illness.”

This is the second COVID-19 diagnosis of a DOC staff member or contractor. Also Friday, the DOC announced that a contract healthcare worker assigned to New Castle County Community Corrections, who was tested for COVID-19 on March 20, received a positive diagnosis on Thursday, April 2. 

That contract healthcare worker has not been in a DOC facility for 18 days – more than the 15-day incubation period of the illness, and has since recovered, Mr. Shavack said. 

No inmate within Delaware’s correctional system has tested positive for COVID-19. Mr. Shavack said that the DOC maintains robust COVID-19 screening and cleaning practices as part of an infectious disease management plan. 

All persons entering any DOC facility are screened for COVID-19, including a series of questions and a forehead temperature check with a digital thermometer, Mr. Shavack said. In a release, the DOC said that staff who present with symptoms are sent home to self-quarantine and contact their health care provider. Newly arriving inmates to DOC facilities are isolated from the rest of the inmate population for 14-days while being monitored for symptoms of respiratory infection.

The two cases come as the DOC tightens restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. 

The DOC announced last month that it would restrict on-site program volunteers who are over the age of 60 or have an underlying health condition that could make them more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. 

At the beginning of April, the DOC further restricted on-site programming and moved some initiatives to virtual formatting. 

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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