RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Corrections announced Monday that they are “dramatically” increasing COVID-19 testing of incarcerated offenders.
In a release, the VADOC says that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will send staff Monday to their facilities to assist with the increased testing.
Officials say they have ordered hundreds of additional tests, and VCU, UVA, and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services are sending hundreds of tests to VADOC facilities.
To date, 116 offenders have active COVID-19 cases, and 50 staff members have active COVID-19 cases, and a total of 434 offenders have been tested, according to the VADOC.
“In addition to testing symptomatic offenders, the VADOC last week began point prevalence testing. This involves testing asymptomatic offenders and gives us a snapshot in time, testing for surveillance purposes rather than just symptoms,” said a VADOC spokesperson.
“This enables us to monitor and treat positive cases sooner, rather than after symptoms develop. Point prevalence testing has been done at Harrisonburg CCAP and Haynesville Correctional Center, and will be done this week at Deerfield Correctional Center.”
VADOJ officials say they believe the point prevalence testing will likely cause their offender case numbers to increase significantly, similarly if you increased testing in a community.
“This increase in testing will give the VADOC a better picture of what is happening at each of Virginia’s correctional facilities and will allow us to reduce the spread of the virus,” a spokesperson added.
One particular facility that is considered to have a large at-risk population is Deerfield Correctional Center, located in Southampton County. The facility houses a pod of elderly offenders and those who require assisted living
Officials say they are following CDC guidelines for long-term care facilities in its assisted living unit and its infirmary.
Additionally, the VADOC says Monday they will begin testing the entire facility and staff at the state prison. A total of 1600 tests will be needed.
Officials say all VADOC facilities are following their pandemic sanitation plan, and offenders and staff are required to wear appropriate PPE at all times, including medical-grade PPE, such as N-95 masks, when appropriate.
Virginia Correctional Enterprises manufactures both utility face masks and cleaning supplies approved by the EPA for use in combating the coronavirus, so there is no shortage of either in the facilities.