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Sick inmate recently released from Okanagan jail fears he may have been exposed to COVID-19

Okanagan Correctional Centre inmate tests positive for COVID-19
An inmate at the Okanagan Correctional Centre facility near Oliver has tested positive for COVID-19, the first of its kind at a B.C. institution.

An inmate recently released from the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) fears he may have been exposed to COVID-19 and hasn’t been instructed by authorities to self-isolate.

The 58-year-old man from the East Kootenays, who Global News has agreed not to name to protect his safety, said he was released from the correctional facility near Oliver, B.C., on March 28 after spending four months behind bars for impaired driving.

Four days after his release, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed a COVID-19 case among the inmate population at the OCC.

“The person who became ill was isolated and the people in the pod that he was in are all being monitored now, so far there are no other cases but it takes time, as we know, after an exposure,” Dr. Henry said on Thursday.

READ MORE: Mother of inmate fears for son’s safety after COVID-19 confirmed at Okanagan jail

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The former inmate said as of Sunday, he has not been contacted by BC Corrections to alert him to the coronavirus case at the jail where he was housed.

“I think I should have been notified, I’m within the time frame, if there is a 14-day incubation period, I was within that 14 days and I definitely should have had a phone call the very second that they found out about it,” he said.

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Coronavirus: Inmates at Saskatoon jail under quarantine after possible link to COVID-19

The man said he travelled through three B.C. and Alberta airports upon his release, unaware he may have been exposed to the virus while at the correctional institution.

“In Kelowna, I had to wait about 2.5 hours wandering around until my flight left, I was flown from Kelowna to Calgary where I waited 1.5 hours to get a connecting flight to [East Kootenays], so I was in three airports that day for hours,” he said.
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The former inmate has now voluntarily chosen to self-isolate, after experiencing symptoms including a runny nose, scratchy throat and dry cough.

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“I’m not even going to leave this house, I am really worried, some of my friends have underlying conditions. I took it upon myself to isolate myself,” he said.

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The man said he’s tried to contact the OCC but his questions have gone unanswered. He plans to phone his family doctor on Monday.

“I’ve never been sick for many years, I’ve never had the flu,” he said.

Meanwhile, April Wood of West Kelowna is also concerned for her family’s safety after she picked up her son from OCC on April 2.

COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada
COVID-19: Preventing prison outbreaks in Canada

Wood said her son, who was imprisoned for drug and theft-related charges stemming from his addiction to narcotics, was not informed of a test-positive case upon his release.

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“He said they had just been on a flu lockdown, but he was not informed when he left, he was not asked any questions when he left, nothing like that, he was just released,” she said on Sunday.

West Kelowna resident April Wood is concerned her son wasn’t notified of a COVID-19 positive case upon his release from jail, and was not directed to self-isolate.
West Kelowna resident April Wood is concerned her son wasn’t notified of a COVID-19 positive case upon his release from jail, and was not directed to self-isolate. Zoom\Global News

“He is coming into a house where we are over 65. The fact that we went around to several locations taking care of business, even the fact right now, every day he has to go in to the pharmacy for his medicine, when you talk about taking precautions, we could’ve taken extra precautions had we known,” Wood said.

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BC Corrections, which operates provincial correctional centres for offenders serving sentences of less than two years in custody, said it would respond to the notification concerns on Monday.

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At the time the COVID-19 case was announced, BC Corrections said the inmate who contracted the virus was isolated under medical observation and tested at the onset of showing symptoms.

It also said that “following provincial health guidelines, an investigation into direct contacts is now underway to identify anyone who may have had exposure to this individual, and appropriate measures will be taken as directed by public health officials.”

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On April 3, Interior Health issued a statement that the risk to the general public from the COVID-19 case at the OCC is low.

“Individuals in custody who may have been exposed are all being monitored; there are currently no signs of illness beyond the first patient. An investigation into any contacts or potential sources is underway,” the health authority said.

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Health officials said any individuals who may have had contact with the patient are being contacted directly, to ensure they are not symptomatic and that they have the resources to self-isolate for 14 days after last contact.

OCC reports that all visits to the institution have been restricted since March 12, and any new inmates who entered the facility were isolated for 14 days.

As of Saturday, there have been 1,203 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 128 cases in Interior Health.

Thirty-eight people have died after contracting the virus and 704 people have recovered, while 48,508 tests have been completed.