The second COVID-19 outbreak at Penetanguishene's superjail recently ended.
The Central North Correctional Centre first reported its second outbreak at the end of February, when 14 cases were identified among inmates in one unit of the institution. A week later, seven more cases were added to that number, with two more inmates testing positive only days later, bringing the total number of cases during this outbreak to 23.
Richard Dionne, president of CNCC Local 369 and a corrections officer at the superjail, told MidlandToday that the outbreak had been declared over at the end of March.
The outbreak had remained contained within unit/wing 6 of the complex. Staff members were given a chance to have themselves tested voluntarily if they felt the need for it.
According to Dionne, no staff members tested positive, but life at the superjail during an outbreak comes with added stress for both staff and inmates.
Dionne indicated in an email that staff continued to follow the same safety protocols as they had in the previous outbreak, such as wearing increased PPE when interacting with inmates. Those incarcerated were being provided with masks if needed, he added.
The matter had also been very concerning for Joanne Leonard, whose son was in unit 5 of the institute. In her initial email to the paper, she wrote her son had informed her that the outbreak was in unit 6. Dionne was able to confirm that.
"This news is very disturbing," wrote Leonard in a follow-up email. "The threat is very real. We worry about inmate conflicts in the best of times, but they are fighting an enemy they cannot see. My loved one is across from the unit directly in front affected with the outbreak."
In an email from the Ministry of the Solicitor General, media spokesperson Andrew Morrison said, "Protecting the health and safety of correctional services staff and those in provincial custody is the ministry’s top priority. Over the last number of months, the ministry has made important operational changes across all provincial correctional facilities."
Some of the changes made include,
- Screening and testing all newly admitted inmates, with their consent
- Housing all newly admitted inmates in a separate area from the general population for 14 days
- Masks provided to inmates, if required
- Providing personal protective equipment for all staff
- Requiring all staff to wear a mask and appropriate eye protection at all times while at the facility
- Requiring visitors to wear masks at all times while at the facility
- Requiring temperature checks for staff and visitors
- Working with local public health units to test inmates and staff as appropriate.
- Increased cleaning measures