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DOC answers questions about quarantine, isolation in state prisons

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 5:09 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Action 2 News has new information about the COVID-19 quarantine and isolation processes in place at state prisons, including Oshkosh Correctional Institution.

We first told you on Tuesday about an outbreak at the prison with more than 400 confirmed cases of the virus between staff and inmates.

RELATED: Oshkosh Correctional Institution experiences COVID-19 outbreak

The Department of Corrections (DOC) says Oshkosh Correctional institution is on a “modified lockdown” because of the high number of positive COVID-19 cases. Director of Communications John Beard writes in an email to Action 2 News, “Utilizing CDC, Department of Health Services and DOC Bureau of Health Services (BHS) guidance, movement is limited to that which is absolutely necessity. Showers, bathrooms, medical assessments. Supplies and services are delivered in the unit whenever possible. The focus is on protecting health and avoiding potential spread.”

Prisoners who test positive for the virus are isolated, and those who are exposed are quarantined. According to Beard, the entire population at the prison is considered to be in quarantine because of the high positivity rate.

RELATED: Oshkosh Correctional inmate dies during COVID-19 outbreak

There is limited space at Oshkosh Correctional Institution, and Beard says inmates are moved around to keep those who have tested positive together. “OSCI is designed for the most part for double occupancy in rooms. Positive asymptomatic individuals are housed together. Patients who are health compromised and more vulnerable are moved to single-occupancy rooms. With limited space we also attempt to house symptomatic positives in a single occupancy situation. Others are moved to allow those with positive cases to be roomed together."

He adds there are no shared spaces or bathrooms between inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those who have tested negative.

One inmate at the facility writes to his mother that the rules get relaxed until someone gets infected. Then, protocols get reinforced again only to be loosened again within a matter of days. “It’s a cycle that I have continually watched, over and over,” the message reads in part.

The inmate says there have been infected inmates using bathrooms meant for people who do not have the virus, and he fears tracking COVID-19 back to his cell where he now spends almost all of his time. Though the DOC tells Action 2 News inmates can used issued cleaning supplies in their rooms, this inmate says corrections officers are not making those supplies available.

As of Friday, there are 389 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 among inmates at Oshkosh Correctional Institution with 353 of those cases active.

“We are continuing to focus our efforts on limiting the spread of the virus at the institutions experiencing outbreaks and providing care for those in our care with COVID-19,” said Beard. “21 of the DOC’s 37 institutions have never had more than two positive cases of COVID-19 among persons in our care since we started testing in March. We’re using advice from medical experts and the tools we have to fight this virus at the institutions currently experiencing outbreaks.”

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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