RICHMOND — While the nationwide struggle to increase testing for the coronavirus continues, the Virginia DOC has worked with its partners at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Health to dramatically increase testing of incarcerated offenders.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will today send staff to VADOC facilities to assist with the increased testing. The VADOC has ordered hundreds of additional tests, and VCU, UVA, and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services are also sending hundreds of tests to VADOC facilities.
The medical professionals at VADOC are working around the clock to provide care to offenders during this pandemic. The VADOC is testing all symptomatic offenders. To date, 434 VADOC offenders have been tested for COVID-19. Currently, 116 offenders have active COVID-19 cases, and 50 staff members have active COVID-19 cases.
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. 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.
Getting ahead of cases by testing offenders who aren’t showing symptoms will likely cause the VADOC offender case numbers to increase significantly, just as in the community, where an increase in testing results in more positives. 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.
Deerfield Correctional Center, with a large at-risk population, is following CDC guidelines for long-term care facilities in its assisted living unit and its infirmary. To protect our geriatric and at-risk offenders to the greatest extent possible, the VADOC medical team is working with the Virginia Department of Health, the VDH Eastern Region Team, the Western Tidewater Health District, health department emergency management, VADOC security operations, Armor Correctional Health Services, UVA, and VCU to test the entire facility and staff. This will begin today, and 1600 tests will be needed.
VADOC employees, like all state employees, normally coordinate their COVID-19 testing through their healthcare provider, not their employer. However, due to the at-risk population at Deerfield Correctional Center, all employees at Deerfield will be tested by VADOC.
The VADOC is operating under a Pandemic Response Manual that follows American Correctional Association guidelines. The Department continues to plan for every possible contingency, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for corrections and working closely with the Virginia Department of Health.
All VADOC facilities are following the DOC’s 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.