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DOC cites progress containing COVID-19 in state correctional system

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

As Delaware passes the 12-week mark since the state's first COVID-19 diagnosis, which was March 11, the Delaware Department of Correction issued a report June 4 that highlights its multi-pronged effort to contain the disease in the state's correctional system.

"Currently, more than 4,300 people are incarcerated in Delaware's nine prisons and work release centers, and today there are just two COVID-positive inmates — both from the state's largest prison in Smyrna — who have symptoms of illness,” said DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. “Meanwhile, 137 inmates have fully recovered. Deliberate and sustained actions have helped mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in Delaware’s correctional system. We will continue to aggressively screen, clean, monitor, test, isolate, trace and treat to stay ahead of this invisible threat."

Read "How the Delaware Department of Correction is containing COVID-19" at bit.ly/3cyS1Do.

While numerous correctional systems across the country have had hundreds, even thousands, of COVID-positive inmates, in the first 12 weeks, Delaware has had fewer than 150 inmate COVID-19 cases. The new report outlines how the DOC is meeting the public health and safety challenge COVID-19 presents to correctional systems.

DOC efforts have included:

— Extensive screening of every person who enters a correctional facility and office and close monitoring of newly arriving inmates for 14 days;

— Use of facemasks by all correctional officers and distribution to more than half of all inmates;

— Testing of inmates and staff who exhibit signs of illness, including the use of rapid COVID-19 tests, and proactive testing of hundreds more inmates and staff who have no symptoms. Extensive contact tracing is employed when a positive test is received;

— Isolation of all suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases and round-the-clock treatment of inmates who develop symptoms of illness;

— Aggressive cleaning, including twice-daily cleanings of all facilities and more frequent cleaning of commonly-used surfaces, education and support for personal hygiene practices, and use of specialized fogging machines that disinfect entire rooms, and;

— Continued opportunities for inmates to connect with community support and participate in treatment programs and learn through virtual education amid the temporary suspension of in-person visitation and in-person programming.

DOC's continued COVID-19 response comes amid a reduction of the state’s incarcerated population. Since March 1, its Level V prison population has decreased more than 11%, its Level IV work release/violation of probation population has decreased by 37%, and its pre-trial detention population has dropped by one-fourth. This reduction since COVID spread to the region this year accelerates a 25% decline in the incarcerated population since 2013, driven by lower crime rates, implementation of a statewide bail reform initiative and the Carney administration's efforts to strengthen reentry services, which are helping to drive the state's recidivism rate lower.