Measures taken to contain COVID spread at Sarnia Jail

Sarnia Jail (BlackburnNews.com file photo)

Efforts to contain a COVID-19 outbreak continue at Sarnia Jail where 40 inmates, and four staff members, have tested positive for the virus.

The jail is at 66 per cent capacity with 50 inmates currently housed at the North Christina Street facility.

Ministry of the Solicitor General spokesman Andrew Morrison said they’re working closely with Lambton Public Health.

“Complete contact tracing, and voluntary testing of inmates is ongoing,” said Morrison in a statement to Blackburn News. “No inmates have been transported to hospital recently, and those infected are being isolated from the rest of the population.”

Morrison said the government is allowing temporary absences to intermittent inmates who serve time in custody on the weekends, allowing them to serve their time in the community.

Lambton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade said there are challenges in dealing with an outbreak at a correctional facility.

“It’s a congregate setting but one in which there are challenges with some of the infection control measures that we usually use in other places,” said Ranade. “That’s by virtue of the security needs for different people to be either placed with each other or apart. That can get in the way of what we try to do in terms of cohorting, keeping sick people with each other and keeping well people with each other, those kinds of things.”

Dr. Ranade said the design of the facility, including inmates only being separated by bars and not walls, makes it difficult to implement infection control measures. He said they’ve implemented the same measures as they would at any workplace, and said new guidelines from the province are expected to be released soon.

Morrison said other safety measures include screening and testing all newly admitted inmates, housing all newly admitted inmates in a separate area from the general population for 14 days, providing inmates with masks, providing personal protective equipment for all staff, requiring all staff to wear a mask and appropriate eye protection at all times while at the facility, increased health checks for visitors, and enhanced cleaning protocols.

He said the ministry does not publicly disclose details on facility staffing for security reasons.