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'New' inmate at super jail tests positive for COVID-19

This is the first case at the Penetanguishene facility; 'As far as I know, no one else is showing any symptoms or anything,' said CNCC official
An inmate recently brought to the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene later tested positive for COVID-19. File photo

The union president at Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) has confirmed that a recent new admission to the facility has now tested positive for COVID-19.

"It was confirmed yesterday by public health," said Richard Dionne, a corrections officer at the CNCC. "The individual was tested prior to being admitted."

He said safety protocols have been in place for the last couple of months, including guards and officers wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves and gowns. In addition, inmates who interact with officers must wear masks during the interaction and whenever they're out in the day- room area. 

Dionne said he could not share any further information about where the inmate was picked up or when he came to the facility, as those pieces of information would serve as identifying information.

As for who has come in contact with the individual, he said he wasn't aware of those details, but added that the health unit was conducting contact tracing to prevent spread. 

"As far as I know, no one else is showing any symptoms or anything," Dionne said, adding, "The individual has been isolated since he came in and he's going to remain isolated until he's healthy."

However, he said, staff have expressed a bit of stress around the situation.

"But (they) have done well in ensuring and taking the precautions they should be taking to limit the spread," Dionne said. "Most of the stress has been negated by keeping up with the protocols of using their PPEs and handwashing." 

A number of inmates and staff have already been tested over the last few months, he said, adding he did not have the exact number. 

The testing was done based on staff or inmates exhibiting symptoms, Dionne said. All tests have come back negative, he added.

And in keeping with the province's increase in testing, Dionne said, more staff testing will happen during this week.

"We're getting our tests Wednesday, Thursday, Friday," he said. "It's all voluntary. The numbers may be significant."

Dionne said he hadn't yet decided if he would be going for the test or not.   

The facility, he said, continues to operate under safety protocol and measures and is still stocked with PPE. Cleaning staff have been vigilant and extra cautious about sanitizing staff access points and high touch areas, said Dionne. 

Inmates are also being provided with cleaning equipment so they can keep their cells hygienic, he said.

Inmates also have access to soap and water so they can follow the hand-washing protocol, Dionne said. 

And although the meal protocols haven't changed, he said, because the counts are down at the facility, there's more space in the day-room for inmates to practise social distancing during meal times.

"We're 1,200 at full capacity, but we're at about 50% capacity roughly right now," Dionne said. "It makes it significantly easier for them to socially distance."  

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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