The Canadian Red Cross confirmed Wednesday that it has been asked to help federal authorities respond to a COVID-19 outbreak at a medium-security prison in central Alberta.
In an email to Global News on Wednesday night, a spokesperson for the charitable humanitarian organization said it will be assisting with the public health situation at Drumheller Institution.
“At the request of the Public Health Agency of Canada and Correctional Service of Canada, Canadian Red Cross is providing supplementary epidemic prevention and control enhancement, training, and guidance in correctional facilities,” Shelly Makrugin said. “Over the course of six months, the Canadian Red Cross will provide this support at facilities across the country, as prioritized by Corrections Canada.
“Canadian Red Cross is uniquely positioned to provide this support, building upon extensive knowledge and experience gained in responding to other epidemics around the world. Since the initial onset of COVID-19, the Red Cross has assessed and supported similar efforts in other facilities throughout Canada, including long-term care sites and rehabilitation centres.”
According to the Correctional Service of Canada, the federal correctional facility had 70 active COVID-19 cases involving inmates and 21 involving staff as of March 10.
In a statement issued to Global News on Thursday, CSC said the Red Cross is one of several different entities it has worked with to protect the health of inmates and correctional workers since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The Canadian Red Cross has extensive experience in epidemic prevention and control support and is well-positioned to provide assistance in correctional facilities with expertise led by its global health unit, who have experience responding to emergencies around the world,” CSC said.
“(Since) March 8, 2021, members of the Red Cross have been onsite at Drumheller Institution to support the institution by providing containment and mitigation strategies, staff refresher training, and donning and doffing techniques as needed.”
CSC noted the Red Cross has recently provided similar support to correctional facilities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“Institutions who are in an outbreak, having onsite transmission, are the highest priority and the Red Cross will be dispatched to these sites first,” CSC said.
Contact tracing is underway at the Drumheller facility to determine how the novel coronavirus is being transmitted, CSC said.
“Additional mass testing is underway for staff and offenders at Drumheller Institution,” CSC added. “Measures are in place, including medical isolation of inmates who test positive, modified institutional routine to minimize close contacts, suspended visits, increased use of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning measures and monitoring and testing staff and offenders.
“Inmates transferring into Drumheller Institution are subject to testing for COVID(-19) symptoms upon arrival followed by 14 days of medical isolation in order to contain the spread of the virus.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about COVID-19 and correctional facilities.