All inmates at Deerfield tested
By Stephen H. Cowles
The Tidewater News
The Virginia Department of Corrections says testing of every inmate and employee at the Deerfield Correctional Center for COVID-19 accounts for the notable increase in the number of people there reported to be positive for the novel coronavirus.
Virginia Department of Corrections Deputy Director of Communications Gregory Carter replied on April 27 to questions about the spike in numbers.
“We worked with our partners at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services and the Virginia Department of Health to dramatically increase testing of incarcerated offenders,” Carter responded via email. “Increased availability of COVID-19 tests allowed VADOC to test every offender and staff member at Deerfield. The testing of all asymptomatic individuals helped the agency discover more positive cases and respond following VDH and CDC guidelines.”
There are approximately 1,050 offenders and more than 400 staff at the center.
The Tidewater News reported on April 12 that there was only one employee who had tested positive earlier that week. By April 21, there were two others plus an inmate. Two days later, the number was at 51 for inmates and three among staff; one offender had been hospitalized.
On April 28, the DOC website reported that 63 offenders on site have tested positive; one is hospitalized; one has died; and nine staff are also infected. The total number accounts for nearly 20 percent of all cases in the Western Tidewater Health District.
Regarding the hospitalized inmate, Carter said the inmate would return to Deerfield should he recover. “His location within Deerfield would be determined by medical staff at the hospital and facility collaboratively. He could return to general population, to a quarantine zone or to an isolation area depending on stage of disease process,” Carter added.
He said all offenders scheduled for release from VADOC facilities would be screened, not tested, for COVID-19 prior to release unless they are symptomatic. He did note, “When COVID-19 positive offenders are released, we coordinate with the local health department and probation office on planning, release with masks/instructions/etc.”
On April 22, Gov. Northam’s office announced that the General Assembly OK’d a proposed budget amendment from Northam giving the director of the Department of Corrections authority to release offenders early during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Carter said he did not have information on hand about how many at Deerfield qualified for such a release.
Concerning what containment measures are in place, the deputy director said the agency is following CDC COVID-19 guidelines for corrections facilities. Further, “… Deerfield is following CDC guidelines for assisted living facilities in its assisted living unit and in its infirmary.”
To help in controlling the virus spread, Carter said, “All DOC facilities are operating under a modified lockdown to minimize contact between groups of offenders. We are also restricting movement of staff between housing units. Patients are moved based on facility infrastructure and numbers. At Deerfield, COVID positive offenders are together in one housing unit. COVID negative offenders in that housing unit were relocated.”
The Tidewater News also requested an interview with the warden, but the deputy declined, stating, “We are not asking our wardens to do media interviews at this time. They are spending all their time taking care of their facilities.”
To see more about how the VADOC is handling the crisis, visit www.vadoc.virginia.gov.