Two correction officers at Saskatoon Correctional Centre have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The cases were confirmed on March 27 after testing. These staff members have been directed to self-isolate at home, according to a press release.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Corrections and Policing said it’s working with public health authorities to determine who these individuals might have come into contact within the facility and what measures need to be taken as a result.
No inmates in provincial correctional facilities have been confirmed as having COVID-19, the ministry said on Friday.
However, government officials said there’s currently one unit at Saskatoon Correctional Centre on quarantine as a precautionary measure for what is believed to be a non-COVID-19 illness.
Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) president Bob Bymoen said overcrowding in correctional facilities and close confinement are currently leading to specific challenges for its members.
“These people are working under the toughest circumstances and are worried,” Bymoen said.
“We have repeatedly raised the alarm about their safety. Now, overcrowding and lack of proper safety equipment means that they are also facing the threat of a serious COVID-19 outbreak. We need action right now.”
The ministry said it’s exploring how to more effectively manage the sentenced offender population in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Nurses watch for symptoms of illness in the offender population and if identified, they ensure prompt testing and reporting of this, according to a government release.
When an illness is suspected among the offender population, the ministry said the facility director ensures precautions are put in place, including the use of medical cells or other isolated areas.
The government said personal protective equipment is being provided to corrections staff and offenders based on criteria established by health authorities.
The ministry added the following measures are being taken in the provincial correctional facilities:
- Suspending or limiting programming to smaller groups of offenders to ensure adequate social distancing.
- Increasing communication to staff and offenders about proper hygiene and contagious disease precautions.
- Enhancing cleaning protocols for common areas and equipment.
Justice Minister Don Morgan said on Thursday the province’s correctional institutions were not at capacity and the government had no plans for early releases.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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