The Missouri Department of Corrections has received notification that 19 offenders in a quarantined housing wing at Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) have tested positive for COVID-19.
Following positive test results for three of the wing’s residents earlier this week, the Department of Corrections took proactive measures to gather vital data, contain the virus, and protect the SECC population by testing 146 people, all 64 housing wing residents, and 82 staff members. None of the staff members tested positive.
Aggressive quarantine strategies are an established component of the department’s viral containment plan. The affected SECC housing wing has been quarantined since April 15, when the first resident with COVID-19 symptoms was tested and relocated to an isolation unit. While the wing is in quarantine, residents of the other three wings of the housing unit have been screened, with temperature checks. All offenders with COVID-19 symptoms and their cellmates are relocated and housed in separate cells in an isolation unit pending test results.
Three SECC staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, as well as all staff with whom they had close contact, are in quarantine at home.
Viral containment plans in effect at SECC and all other state prisons are designed to reduce the risk of viral spread within a facility. Each offender interacts only with residents of his own housing unit at all times, including meals and recreation, avoiding contact with other offenders and staff. Large-group activities have been suspended. Staff work in the areas to which they’re assigned and avoid interactions with offenders or staff from other areas.
No offender currently housed in a state prison other than SECC has tested positive for COVID-19.
Protective face covers manufactured by Missouri Vocational Enterprises have been distributed to all staff and offenders at every Missouri Department of Corrections facility. Each SECC staff member and offender has been issued one or more of these face covers, which can be cleaned in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines. The department also has a supply of medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand for use by staff working with or near offenders who have tested positive for COVID-19.
To minimize exposure, the Missouri Department of Corrections has followed all safety protocols and has instituted operational changes in all facilities:
- The department has implemented strict sanitation schedules at every facility, with ample access to cleaning supplies, and has designated a point person at each facility to enforce sanitizing guidelines and to ensure the availability of soap and sanitizer.
- The department has suspended visiting, volunteer and reentry partner programs, and regular offender transfers among facilities, except in extenuating circumstances.
- All staff are screened, with temperature checks, before entering a facility.
- Corizon Health provides around-the-clock on-site medical care at every prison, and medical staff have been trained in COVID-19 preparation and response.
- Isolation cells, wings, and units have been designated inside prisons. Offenders with symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, or other communicable diseases are isolated from other offenders.
- COVID-19 testing is available at every prison. Offenders with COVID-19 symptoms are tested in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines.
- COVID-19-enhanced pandemic protocols have been implemented at every prison.
- The department will continue to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and make additional operational and preventative decisions as the situation evolves. Throughout the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, MODOC will post public updates on our website at https://doc.mo.gov/media-center/newsroom/covid-19.
An official with the department stated, “We will continue to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and make additional operational decisions as the situation evolves.”