More stringent measures are being put in place at Lemon Creek Correctional Center after six staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.
The changes are intended to protect staff, inmates and the community, said an Alaska Department of Corrections spokesperson.
“As a result of the first confirmed staff positive, all staff who were listed as contacts were sent home and received COVID tests. Roughly 40 staff members have received COVID-19 tests at Lemon Creek to date,” said DOC spokesperson Sarah Gallagher in an email Tuesday. “Staff will not be permitted to return to the facility until approval from the State Epidemiology Team and public health officials is received. Staff members with pending tests are also not permitted to work.”
Additional tests will be ordered at the direction of the state’s public health and epidemiology personnel, Gallagher said. All individuals with positive tests were ordered home to self-isolate.
“Since March 24, all institutional staff are screened prior to entering the facility before each shift,” Gallagher said. “Staff are also equipped with proper PPE when necessary while on duty.”
While the Juneau Police Department has scaled back on taking many nonviolent offenders into custody, there are still suspects who are not deemed safe to leave in the community. For them, existing protocols are modified to account for the health of LCCC’s staff and inmates.
“Upon remand, every inmate receives a medical screening. This is a normal practice that is performed by booking nurses during intake even in the absence of a global pandemic,” Gallagher said. “Now, COVID questions have been added to that screening — to include questions about recent travel history and if they are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19. If necessary, inmates may be isolated or quarantined for a period of time before they are introduced to general population.”
Once in custody at the prison, new rules are in place, partitioning groups to keep an outbreak from sweeping through the entire population. Face masks have been provided for all staff and inmates, Gallagher said, with sufficient stocks laid in for continued operations, as well as established logistics lines from the DOC’s centralized supply point in Anchorage.
“The Department is treating each housing mod as a “family unit” or household, and just like in the community, we are limiting the interaction between ‘family units’ and those in other housing mods when possible,” Gallagher said.
“Normally, multiple housing units will recreate together and eat meals together in a ‘chow hall’ setting. Currently, to follow the social distancing guidelines and (state) Health Mandate 11, each mod recreates and eats only with those who are living in that unit.”
In the event of a confirmed case in the inmate population, Gallagher said, there’s specific contingency made for individual isolation and treatment within the facility.
“Each facility has multiple designated isolation cells for inmates who have a positive COVID-19 test result, as well as inmates who are awaiting test results,” Gallagher said. “An offender who tests positive for the virus will remain isolated from the general population until they are cleared by DOC medical providers, the state epidemiology team and public health officials.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or email@example.com.