Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — An offender at the minimum custody unit of the Caledonia Correctional Complex in Tillery has tested positive for coronavirus. This is the first positive test for the virus known as COVID-19 of an individual in custody at a North Carolina state prison.
“We have prepared long and hard for this day,” said N.C. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. “This is not a surprise and we are following the infectious disease protocols we have in place for exactly this type of situation. Our top priority is the health and safety of our staff and the men and women in our care.”
The offender is in isolation at the prison and is being treated by the licensed medical staff assigned to the facility. The offender exhibited symptoms of a viral infection on March 24.
He was promptly quarantined from the population and tested for COVID-19 the next day. The test came back positive on Wednesday, April 1. The offender is in stable condition.
Pursuant to state protocols, precautions have been taken to prevent anyone else from becoming infected by the virus. Contact tracing is also underway to identify persons who may have had unprotected contact with the offender within six feet over a span of 10 minutes. Those individuals will be monitored and tested for COVID-19 as warranted, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Also, in accordance with CDC guidelines, the entire minimum unit has been placed on quarantine, with no movements of offenders to or from the prison unless for critical need. The housing dorm where the offender was assigned was placed on lockdown except for appropriately regulated recreational time.
Offenders within this housing assignment will be served meals in their dorm. All offenders and staff are being issued masks to wear. An additional shipment of masks and other personal protective equipment has been dispatched to the prison, and additional sanitation regimens are also underway.
The individual who tested positive is a male in his 60s. Given his right to medical privacy and the confidentiality of prison offender records, the Department of Public Safety will not further identify the individual.
For the past month, offenders throughout the prison system with fevers, coughs and symptoms of respiratory illness have been quarantined from the prison general population. In addition, new offenders to the state prison system are quarantined for 14 days following initial medical screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms, in order to prevent the introduction of the virus into a facility. Offender transportation movements are limited to only court-ordered, high priority and health care movements. Transported offenders are medically screened both before and after getting on the bus.
Testing for COVID-19 is being done per the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control. The N.C. Division of Prisons has taken a substantial number of additional actions to prepare for the emergence of COVID-19 in the state prisons and, to reduce the chances it could spread.