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Prison in Caswell County begins COVID-19 testing on all offenders, officials say

NCDPS said data and previous experience at Neuse Correctional Institution prompted the decision to test all offenders at Caswell Correctional Center.

CASWELL COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina prison officials announced Friday they will begin COVID-19 tests on all inmates at the Caswell Correctional Center.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety made the announcement Friday afternoon.

NCDPS said Division of Prisons officials initiated the testing of all 420 offenders at Caswell Correctional Center and will continue to provide testing access and to encourage staff to get tested.

The department said data and previous experience at Neuse Correctional Institution prompted the decision to test all offenders at the facility.

“This data-driven decision and strategy is the result of a strong collaborative and coordinated effort with the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “We will do all we can to stamp out this stubborn outbreak at Caswell Correctional with hard work and strict attention to medical protocols. We have done it before at Neuse and we will do it again.”

NCDPS said COVID-19 tests swabs will be taken from the entire offender population at the center.

The department said the results from LabCorp are expected by the beginning of next week.

NCDPS said when the results are in, anticipated actions include:
• Placing newly positive offenders in medical isolation
• Separating offenders who test negative and keeping them in medical quarantine groups while their health conditions are closely monitored.
• Disinfecting all facility offices and dorms with industrial-strength Power Breezers.
• Elevating hand hygiene regimens and strictly enforcing the wearing of face masks by all staff and offenders.

The department said the data-driven decision to test the entire offender population at the prison was based on a gradual increase in the number of offenders who tested positive for coronavirus through symptom-based testing. It also stemmed from an increase in staff who either self-reported testing positive for the virus or who tested positive with the health department.

NCDPS said a similar mass-testing of the offender population was conducted at Neuse Correctional in Goldsboro in April and revealed an extensive outbreak of coronavirus, mostly in offenders who never showed any symptoms.

The department said all current offenders at that prison have met the state department of health and human services and Centers for Disease Control criteria to be considered recovered.

Officials said since mid-April, a total of 19 of the 420 offenders at Caswell Correctional have tested positive and 19 of the 136 staff assigned to the dorm-style prison have tested positive.

NCDPS said previous symptom-based testing has revealed positive results in offenders housed in 12 of the prison’s 14 dormitories.

The department said this is an indication the virus is not confined to limited sections of the prison.

“The safety of the staff and the offenders throughout the state prison system absolutely remains our top priority,” Ishee said.

Ishee said this is a “nasty virus” that poses “significant challenges.”

“It is sneaky, highly contagious, and difficult to contain because people may have it and not know it and spread it unwittingly to others. We will address this problem at Caswell,” he said.

NCDPS said the Division of Prisons has taken more than four dozen actions to prevent COVID-19 from getting into the prisons, and to contain it within a facility if it does and to prevent its spread to other prisons.

For more information visit NCDPS’ website.

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