COVID-19: 151 cases among staff and inmates at Regina Correctional Centre

The COVID-19 outbreak at Regina Provincial Correctional Centre (RPCC) has grown to 131 infected inmates and 20 infected staff members as of Thursday.

Just over a week ago on April 8, there were 18 inmates and five staff members who had tested positive.

Read more: Correctional officers’ union calls for vaccine prioritization after COVID-19 cases at Regina jail

Then, the SGEU Public Service/Government Employment (PS/GE) bargaining unit, which represents correctional officers, was calling upon the government to prioritize both correctional staff and inmates for vaccines.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said on Friday that officials are looking into the possibility of going into the jail to vaccinate correctional officers and staff but said he is working with a limited supply of vaccines that aren’t already allocated to general public appointments.

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“It starts to add up very quickly so we want to make sure we’re not compromising our mass vaccination clinics for this but we’ll certainly look at targeting them,” Merriman said.

Merriman added that the RPCC has rapid testing and is segregating people that have tested positive.

Click to play video: 'Regina Correctional Centre faces COVID-19 outbreak' Regina Correctional Centre faces COVID-19 outbreak

Regina Correctional Centre faces COVID-19 outbreak – Apr 8, 2021

Saskatchewan Corrections Ministry spokesperson Noel Busse said that the Saskatchewan Health Authority began vaccinating RPCC inmates who meet the age eligibility on Thursday, which was 52+ at the time. A total of seven inmates were vaccinated on Thursday, with a total of 10 individuals vaccinated at the RPCC.

Busse added that new restrictions were put in place by the ministry at reduced custody facilities in Regina and Saskatoon. To reduce the risk of community transmission, inmates are expected to within the facilities.

New admissions to correctional facilities are also tested and screen for COVID-19 when they arrive, and again in 10 days. New inmates are also quarantined for 14 days.

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Global Regina asked the Corrections Ministry how many COVID-19 positive inmates or staff were in hospital but Busse said the ministry could not provide that level of detail, “given that it could be interpreted as personal health information.”

Barry Nowoselsky, chair of the PS/GE bargaining unit, said that as of Thursday he was aware of five inmates in hospital, adding that number could have changed today.

“Like we’ve been saying all along, when you get a COVID case in an institution it can spread like wildfire that’s something we’ve been raising as an issue for months and months and months like obviously the Minister hasn’t taken that to heart,” Nowoselsky said.

Nowoselsky added that outbreaks in correctional facilities “can happen in a heartbeat.”

Read more: Regina Correctional Centre COVID-19 outbreak concerning to families of inmates

He said that the province should not be reacting to these outbreaks but rather stopping them from happening in the first place.

Nowoselsky renewed his calls for the government to prioritize correctional workers for vaccinations.

“It is spreading, and it’s been a concern for many months now and we raised the issue and we’ve had outbreaks in other facilities and right now the one at the Regina Correctional Centre is a real concern with the variants there and with the number of inmates and staff that have been testing positive,” Nowoselsky said.

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— with files from Brittney Matejka 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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