(WNCN) — Operations have been temporarily suspended at three North Carolina prisons due to a surge in COVID-19 cases across the state, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety revealed in a report Monday.
This allows the temporary reassignment of staff to prisons in need of additional medical and security personnel to handle COVID-19 outbreaks.
“I am grateful we have such a dedicated, hard-working staff who help out their colleagues as we continue to battle this first-in-a-century pandemic,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “They are heroes.”
Consolidating some prison operations allows more offenders to be medically treated within the prison system, which reduces the stress on hospitals treating non-offender COVID-19 cases in their communities.
Doing so also increases public safety by reducing the number of offenders who must be transported outside prisons for medical treatment, according to NCDPS.
According to the report, Southern Correctional Institution Minimum Unit in Montgomery County had operations suspended on Nov. 20, Randolph Correctional Center in Randolph County on Nov. 22, while Piedmont Correctional Institution Minimum Unit in Rowan County suspended its operations on Nov. 25.
The impacted offenders were transferred without a major incident to other prison facilities of appropriate custody levels, according to NCDPS.
NCDPS also released other key figures on how the state’s prison system has been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Nov. 24, 59,677 tests have been performed in North Carolina’s state prisons. Of that number, 35,915 offenders have been tested and 5,262 of the tests came back positive.
The state prison system has 602 active cases as of Nov. 24, which equals two percent of the total state prison population, according to DPS. About 4,183 current offenders have presumably recovered from COVID-19, while 14 current offenders remain in the hospital.
According to the report, staff was tested in 14-day intervals and offenders were tested if symptomatic or if likely exposure occurred.
When it comes to prison staff, 1,560 positive cases were reported among them as of Nov. 24 and 1,242 of those with positive tests have since returned to work. That leaves 318 staff members who have not yet returned to work, the report says.
NCDPS says new safety measures are underway with the ordering of 3,035 iWave air purifiers for all North Carolina prison facilities. KN95 and N95 masks are also available for all employees upon request.
State prisons are also being outfitted with HEPA Filtration, the report says.
NCDPS says it is up to $48.6 million in hazard pay and the use of its medical facilities has cost $4.4 million. The state prison system has used between $2 and $3 million for community resources for offender transition.
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