Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — State prison officials have initiated a plan to test all 31,000 offenders for COVID-19.
“We’ve done some mass testing at prisons with significant outbreaks of this awful virus, but now we are going to test them all, the entire offender population,” said Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee.
This testing of the population is estimated to require at least 60 days to complete, at a projected cost of more than $3.3 million.
The tests will be analyzed by LabCorp, with the results transmitted directly into the Division of Prisons’ medical database, and these results will continue to be posted on the Department of Public Safety website.
Testing is currently underway at Albemarle Correctional Institution in New London.
COVID-19 tests are already being conducted on all new offenders when they arrive at the prison from the county jails.
Moving forward, in the limited instances where transfers are determined to be necessary, COVID-19 tests will be conducted on offenders before they are transferred to other prisons or the offender will be placed in medical isolation for 14 days, in lieu of testing.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources issued updated COVID-19 testing guidelines last week.
To date, the department has tested 2,809 offenders housed in its facilities.
The majority of offenders in the state prison system who tested positive for COVID-19 are now presumed to have recovered. Of the 717 individuals who tested positive so far, 635 have met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) criteria to be released from medical isolation.
“Our top priority is everyone’s health and safety, and I mean everyone,” Ishee said. “I strongly urge our staff to continue taking advantage of the COVID-19 tests being offered through our State Health Plan/FastMed/LabCorp partners.”
The Division of Prisons has taken more than four dozen actions to prevent COVID-19 from getting into the prisons, and to contain it within a facility if it does and to prevent its spread to other prisons.