A single confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported within the Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI).
The Office of Communication for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) said Thursday, April 16th an individual at the Chillicothe prison did test positive for the Coronavirus on Wednesday, April 15th. The ODRC did not however state whether the individual was an inmate of the prison or an employee. Unofficially iHeartMedia News is told that case is among the inmate population.
JoEllen Smith with the ODRC's Office of Communication said CCI did confirm an individual who tested positive yesterday, April 15th. She provided the following information regarding the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and COVID-19:
The ODRC’s preparations began for the potential impact of COVID early this year.This included table-top exercises and frequent discussion with her counterparts across the county.Director Chambers-Smith presented during a national webinar the best practices in preparation for COVID for correctional facilities.She continues to be part of a multi-state information sharing group is in regular communication with her counterparts across the country.
DRC continues to work closely with the Ohio Department of Health in implementing operational changes as we address the challenges associated with COVID-19.The Director communicates daily with the wardens across the state and emphasizes the importance of social distancing when it is possible in a correctional setting.
Daily testing information can be found at coronavirus.ohio.gov
The following is an extensive list of some of the steps the ODRC has taken in response to COVID:
- DRC began preparing for the potential impact of COVID-19 earlier this year. This included table-top exercises and frequent discussions with the Ohio Department of Health. We also began to update our pandemic plans to include specifics about COVID-19.
- Prior to COVID-19, as part of our normal infectious disease control efforts, we routinely offer annual influenza vaccines to all offenders in our prison who wanted one, and especially targeted our at-risk and chronic care caseloads.
- We continue to work collaboratively with the Ohio Department of Health to coordinate all our responses to COVID-19 implementing healthcare best practices and evidence- based methods of suppression for an infectious disease in a correctional setting.
- We are also coordinating and regularly communicating with Ohio’s Emergency Operations Center.
- We have issued numerous communications to our staff and inmates, including education about COVID-19 and reminders to engage in aggressive hand-washing and social distancing where possible. We have used emails, posters, and videos along with encouraging local leaders to frequently interact with staff and offenders.
- The prisons have sanitation crews who frequently disinfect common surfaces with a chemical effective against COVID-19 in line with public health recommendations.
- We are using technology and other methods to reduce staff and offender gatherings including using tele-conferencing for our new officer training.
- All non-essential staff training has been suspended.
- We publish key metrics about the impact of COVID-19 daily on our website atwww.drc.ohio.gov. This site has information on how many incarcerated individuals are being tested, how many positive tests have been returned, and information about offenders in quarantine and isolation.
- A commodities team was established to conduct regular surveys of available supplies, identify potential needs, and develop methods of accessing and sharing resources.
- We implemented a text messaging system for staff to be able to easily check in with their loved ones while they are at work as cell phones are not permitted within the facilities.
- The Director has approved policy variances to accommodate operational needs, for example allowing the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a safe and effective manner.
- A family phone number and email address have been established and published to help answer questions about the impact COVID-19 is having on our operations. Individuals can email the DRC firstname.lastname@example.org or call 614-728-1142.
- We have implemented COVID-19 specific health screening for all inmates entering our prisons including reception and those returning from court hearings or other essential transports.
- The electronic health record has been updated to include COVID-19 information to help with data analysis.
- Volunteer activities and visiting have been suspended. Engaging with loved ones is important and the Director has worked to expand the opportunities over the past year. We expanded alternative means for incarcerated individuals to communicate with their loved ones during this time. This includes one free video visit per week and two free phone calls per week (free calls are extended through April 30 and will be reevaluated at that time). Inmates also have access to eight free emails per month. In person visiting will be reestablished as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Only staff and mission critical contractors (construction, medical, food service, etc.) are permitted into the facilities. Health screenings are in place for staff and contractors who are entering the facilities/offices. We have made arrangements to allow staff to work from home when it is operationally feasible.
- Staff and the incarcerated population are permitted to wear protective masks.
- We have suspended travel for all state employees to only tasks that are mission critical.
- The Director issued an executive order to county jails regarding the screening of inmates before being transferred to our reception centers. If symptomatic inmates arrive, the DRC does not accept them and they are returned to the jail along with all others transported with them. We also screen our inmates leaving prisons as well.
- All inmates released from prison receive an information packet on COVID-19 prepared by our healthcare staff.
- Reception inmates will be housed in the same area by date of arrival for a minimum of 5 weeks to monitor them for any symptoms which may emerge. This is designed to lessen the chances new admissions could infect the General Population.
- Inmate work assignments which are not on state property have been suspended.
- Inmate medical co-pays are being waived for individuals who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms in order to encourage offenders to self-report illness.
- The Ohio Penal Industries is manufacturing personal protective equipment such as protective gowns, masks, face shields and hand sanitizer.
- Each prison has been authorized to make cloth masks if they have local supplies available and with any additional fabric they can procure. These will be made available to inmates and staff if there is enough supply locally.
- On March 29, 2020, after consulting with the Ohio Department of Health, the Director ordered all prisons with dormitory style housing to implement “head to toe” sleeping arrangements to maximize social distancing in a correctional environment.
- Most facilities began last week serving two meals per day - a hot brunch meal and a hot evening meal. This is being done to ensure we have less movement and less contact to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. The menu was selected based on food item popularity and the current daily calorie intake being offered with the brunch menu exceeds the previously offered menu – the current menu is 2,700 calories, which is 200 more than when there were three meals a day. Commissary prices are being reduced as well to assist residents in being able to purchase food and other goods that they can have with them in the housing units. Rules surrounding food packages that are sent in from families were changed to increase limits.
- Mass inmate testing being conducted at the Marion and Pickaway Correctional Institutions and the Franklin Medical Center. Staff testing began April 16, 2020 at MCI and FMC.