RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Another inmate in the state corrections system has tested positive for COVID-19. The new case is at the Central Virginia Correctional Unit for woman in Chesterfield. The latest case brings the total of prisoner cases to four.
Three inmates, three Department of Corrections workers and a contractor tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
The three inmates are all inside the Virginia Correctional Center For Women. The DOC employees include an officer in training at that same prison in Goochland, a correction’s officer at Indian Creek Correctional Center and a worker at the Norfolk Probation and Parole office. The infected contractor is a nurse at that correctional center for women in Goochland.
Lori Clemons-Ward told 8News she is very worried about her aunt who was treated on a daily basis by that nurse. Clemons-Ward says her aunt is currently behind bars for a non-violent crime. She says, “There are over 500 inmates at this facility that use the same telephone, same microwave in all common areas, these areas are not being disinfected. So, how do you practice social distancing at a place like this?”
Clemons-Ward says her aunt is over 60 years old and has underlying health conditions. The nurse who tested positive for COVID-19 administered her aunt’s medications. Yet, Clemons-Ward says no one has tested her aunt for the virus.
8News reached out to Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran’s office with Clemons-Ward’s concerns. In an email from Moran’s office we were told:
“With regard to the woman who requested testing after coming into contact with a nurse who tested positive, VADOC does not determine who receives testing. VADOC medical staff follow the VDH guidelines the same way they would in the community. Unfortunately, due to a limited number of available tests, everyone who has requested one does not necessarily meet VDH requirements.”
Moran himself has said the prisons with confirmed cases are following the CDC’s guidelines for when there is a positive case. He says that dictates quarantine and contact investigations to determine other possible infections. 8News also asked if VADOC was considering moving infected COVID-19 patients to a separate facility. Moran’s office responding in an email:
“At this time, VADOC is able to manage the cases in their facilities unless the individual’s condition is so severe that it requires hospitalization.
This being said, it would be irresponsible not to consider all options for managing this crisis. There have been discussions about the use of additional facilities to accommodate the need for different types of bed space. There are many issues to consider including the already strained medical resources across the state. We will continue to provide information to the public as it becomes available.”
Clemons-Ward says her aunt has been was moved to another location but she’s not truly isolated. She told 8News, “My aunt has been placed in quarantine. Quarantine is located in the basement, the basement has no ventilation, no heat, if she stretches her hand out from her bunk, she can reach the next person in the bunk. How do you practice social distancing?”
The Department of Corrections says all prisons in the commonwealth are on modified lockdown to minimize contact between inmates.
Clemons-Ward wishes her the system would let her aunt out early. She claimed she has been a model inmate, has a home care plan and is scheduled to be released in the next two to three years.
State leaders did say they planned to release some low-level offenders on home monitoring to prevent the spread of the virus.
Secretary Moran confirmed today that 96 low level offenders were released in March on parole. He says that is a 153% increase over the previous month. The state’s prison population consists of more 29,000.
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