18 inmates test positive for COVID-19 at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center

SMYRNA — A cluster of 18 inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center has tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday, the Delaware Department of Correction announced Monday.

The inmates were all housed in one building at the state’s largest prison, according to spokesman Jason Miller. Six of the afflicted prisoners were displaying no symptoms, and 12 showed only minor effects of the virus, the DOC said.

According to the DOC, the cases were identified through proactive screening and rapid COVID-19 testing. All affected inmates were transferred to the prison’s COVID-19 Treatment Center.

Three inmates who tested positive arrived from out-of-state correctional facilities in late September, the DOC said. They had tested negative before being transferred to Delaware. The inmates were tested again upon arrival, and all had negative results, the DOC said.

Following the second negative test, the three inmates were then quarantined for 14 days before entering the general population, the DOC said.

Citing privacy concerns, the DOC said no additional information about the identity of the inmates would be provided.

The DOC said it has implemented daily temperature and pulse oxygen level checks at several prisons and work-release centers, noting “significant community spread throughout the state and the increased risk of the infectious virus entering a correctional facility.”

The checks were in addition to health safety measures already in place, the DOC said.

According to DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis, the positive cases were identified “thanks to the vigilance of our security and medical teams.”
Ms. DeMatteis said DOC medical personnel have administered more than 5,700 COVID-19 tests among the inmate population.

On Thursday, the DOC suspended in-person visitation to prisons as a precaution following reports by public health officials of a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases within the general public and increasing risk of significant spread within the community.

The DOC said there are no COVID-19 cases among inmates at its other Level IV and Level V facilities.

Since March, the DOC said 551 offenders have recovered from COVID-19. Included were 32 test results from September to November, 378 from late June to July and 141 from March to May.

No positive test results of any inmates resulted from May 22 through June 28, the DOC said. Also, there were no positive tests for sentenced offenders from July 31 to Sept. 11, according to the DOC.

As of Monday, the DOC said 10 inmates have died from complications from serious chronic diseases and COVID-19, along with one resulting from COVID-19 only. Seven cases involved JTVCC inmates, and four prisoners were from Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown.

Updated positive-case information and the DOC’s ongoing response to COVID-19 is available at doc.delaware.gov and also through the Department of Correction’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

When announcing the positive cases Monday, the DOC outlined its ongoing safety measures regarding COVID-19:

• All persons, including officers, administrative staff and probationers, who enter any Level V prison, Level IV violation of probation or work-release center or Probation and Parole office are screened for COVID-19, including a series of questions and a forehead temperature check with a 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 time they are carefully monitored, including daily temperature checks with a thermometer.

• DOC has implemented extra daily cleanings of 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 health care workers as a protection for inmates, officers and other employees.

• Face masks have been provided to every inmate at all Level V prisons and Level IV work-release and violation of probation facilities statewide.

• Voluntary COVID-19 testing is being offered to all correctional staff and medical personnel at every DOC facility.

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