COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Department of Corrections has been working for weeks now to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for its inmates and staff members.
As of April 22, 36 agency staffers and two inmates agency-wide had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, SCDC reports on its website.
The first case identified in an inmate was identified over the weekend in a 69-year-old at Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center who has pre-existing health conditions.
After a second inmate there tested positive, Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center was put on quarantine lockdown. SCDC will not be accepting new male inmates for at least two weeks as inmates and staff are monitored.
Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling told News13 Monday the agency’s response to the virus has been keeping inmates safe.
“We said no more visitation,” Stirling explained. “No more volunteers. If you’re critical staff member to the security- not just essential- but critical to the safety and security of that institution, you can come in. But if you’re not, you can’t come in.”
Stirling added that all inmates coming in are screened, and that plenty of cleaning supplies are available. Staff and inmates have masks for added protection. Inmates with symptoms and exposure risk factors are isolated. SCDC has posted its full response plan on its website.
Stirling said although limited, staff coming in and out would be the most likely way the virus would spread in a facility.
“If you looked at a prison, it’s basically an island,” he said. “So if you left everyone on there and didn’t have staff coming in, and had nobody positive, you would have no problems. But because we have staff coming in… those would be the vehicles fo bringing in COVID.”
Stirling said that SCDC is working to be able to perform its own COVID-19 tests to make turnaround times faster.
“This is just such an unprecedented time,” he said. “This is something that is rapidly evolving and as it changes we will change.”
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