Spike in COVID-19 cases at Pender Correctional Institution causes concern

Spike in COVID-19 cases at Pender Correctional Institution causes concern
Spike in COVID-19 cases at Pender Correctional Institution causes concern (Source: KFVS)

PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - As of October 8, Pender Correctional Institution has the third highest count of active cases (64) in the state.

After several people contacted WECT regarding a spike in COVID-19 cases and concern about safety precautions being taken in North Carolina’s prisons, we reached out to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) to share their concerns.

Multiple calls were received October 7 regarding an incident at Pender Correctional Institution where several inmates lit trashcan fires inside the prison.

The spokesperson for NCDPS said in an email that the Division of Prisons has implemented dozens of measures to help prevent COVID-19 from entering the prisons and to control any infections that occur.

The measures are intended to keep the public, staff and offenders safe and the department continues to monitor the guidelines amidst a constantly changing situation.

Outline of the Division of Prisons medical protocols on COVID-19

Offenders who test positive are promptly separated from the rest of the offender population and placed in medical isolation to better ensure they didn’t spread the virus. The housing units where the COVID-19 positive offenders were housed are placed under medical quarantine for close observation and twice daily temperature checks. Any offender who subsequently shows symptoms of the virus is moved into medical isolation and tested for COVID-19. Each prison has medical protocols in place in the event an offender needs advanced medical care.

This is important: All housing units at the prisons are cohorted, kept in groups, to prevent the mixing of offenders in one housing unit from those in other housing units. These “cohorted” housing units go to chow together, to recreation time together, to pill call together, etc. This is a precautionary virus-mitigation strategy to better prevent the spread of the virus in a prison.

All of those protocols are in keeping with guidance from the CDC and NCDHHS for virus-mitigation and containment in a congregate care facility, such as nursing homes and prisons.

All staff and offenders each have five to six cloth, three-ply face masks and are required to wear them. The prison has ample cleaning supplies and extensive cleaning regimens in place.

Staff are encouraged to be tested for COVID-19. They can be tested by the medical provider of their choice or through an initiative offender by DPS Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. Information on that initiative can be found here.

The most recent update by the NCDPS was September 18 where the decision was made to resume limited visitation at all the state’s prisons October 1 with significant restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A prison-by-prison chart that is updated daily can be viewed on the NCDPS web page showing the current number of active positive cases in the offender populations at each prison.

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