Coffee Creek mailroom employee contracts COVID-19
The Oregon Department of Corrections is reporting good news and bad news as it relates to the prevalence of COVID-19 at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.
The department said a mailroom employee had contracted COVID-19 June 10, the first case among staff at the institution, and also that the prison unit filled with adults in custody (AIC) who had contracted the novel coronavirus at other institutions was reduced from 67 to seven between mid-May and mid-June.
ODOC communications coordinator Vanessa Vanderzee said the mailroom employee was asymptomatic and exposed staff members, but did not come into contact with any AICs.
The employee is self-quarantining, and staff who were in contact with the employee were given the option of being tested and self-quarantining. The mailroom was closed temporarily and cleaned following the positive test, and the employee won't be back to work until they receive a negative test, according to CCCF Public Information Officer Mackenzie Kath.
"The good news is the rest of the mailroom employees were tested the next day and all were negative," Kath said.
The facility screens employees for COVID-19 symptoms every day before they come into work by taking their temperature and asking them a series of questions.
Most AIC patients have recovered
Vanderzee said the removal of the AICs from its all-male, COVID-positive unit is a result of recoveries from the disease, and none of the individuals housed there died. There has been one reported COVID-19 death at the Department of Corrections overall during the pandemic. The death occurred at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
The ODOC decided to quarantine COVID-positive AICs from other institutions at CCCF because "it is one of a few institutions with 24/7 medical care and the health services capacity to house COVID-19 patients," according to Vanderzee.
She also said AICs housed in that unit don't have contact with the rest of the prison population, cannot go outside and spend one to four hours per day outside of their cells. The unit has the capacity for 108 AICs. These patients are placed in both single and double cells. Restrictions vary depending on the individual's medical condition, according to Vanderzee.
"DOC's institutions were not built with a pandemic of this magnitude in mind," she said. "Due to institution infrastructure, and because restrictive housing was the best option to keep positive or pending AICs separate from the rest of the population, AICs placed in medical isolation have an interruption in their usual routine — and thus more limited access to their usual activities. Despite this challenge, DOC institutions are working hard to ensure AICs in quarantine and in medical isolation still have access to showers, phones and other comforts."
Vanderzee said treatment follows protocols from the department's chief of medicine and an infectious disease specialist, as well as guidelines from the National Institutes of Health. And staff members tasked with treating AICs are required to wear personal protective equipment.
"Any staff member that comes in contact with a COVID-19 positive AIC must wear PPE — including members of our transport team that relocate the AIC from their original institution to Coffee Creek," Vanderzee said.
As for the general population at CCCF, the prison has tested 29 AICs and all 29 results have come back negative, according to ODOC. This means there aren't any women residing at state prisons in Oregon who have tested positive for COVID-19.
"We have a unit all ready to go. We have since the end of March. If any of our women tested positive, we would have a medical unit set up, but we have not used it, thankfully," Kath said.
However, 17 women and 75 men are being quarantined at the prison. This is a precautionary measure for AICs who first enter the prison.
As for testing, Vanderzee said the department is prioritizing testing AICs with symptoms and that asymptomatic AICs are only being tested if they came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Vanderzee said AICs with symptoms are encouraged to contact health services, and the need for testing is determined after a full assessment.
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