Virginia DOC tests over one-third inmate population; leading the way with offender testing


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Department of Corrections announced on Wednesday that it has tested more than one-third of the 29,000 incarcerated offenders in the Commonwealth, putting the state at the forefront for aggressive testing measures.

Virginia DOC is testing all inmates, including those who display no symptoms of COVID-19. The goal is that administering “point prevalence testing” allows them to identify those who are asymptomatic.

“The Virginia DOC has been able to test on a scale that most congregate settings, from prisons to nursing homes, have been unable to do. The doctors, nurses, and medical staff at the DOC are working around the clock to test and provide care to offenders during this pandemic,” DOC officials said in a statement released.

“Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which currently has zero cases among offenders and staff, Sussex I State Prison, and State Farm Correctional Complex are all being tested this week.”

Over 11,000 offenders have been tested as a result of the partnerships between the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia National Guard, Armor Correctional Health Services, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, and several private labs.

“We are asking for an enormous, unprecedented undertaking on the part of our health care staff as well as our security and administrative staff during this time,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke.

“From adhering to a comprehensive pandemic response manual to all the test tracking that has to be done by hand, as the Department doesn’t have an electronic health care records system, we have made a commitment to do everything we possibly can to keep our staff and offenders safe during this global pandemic,” he continued.

The purpose of point prevalence surveillance testing is to allow the DOC to monitor and treat positive cases sooner, keeping asymptomatic staff and offenders from spreading the virus.

While this may cause the numbers of those who test positive to increase, this method allows for full COVID-19 transparency while reducing the spread of the virus.

At Greensville Correctional Center, about 3,000 inmates and staff were tested and of that, less than 200 offenders came back positive. Officials said that all of the offenders tested during the point prevalence testing were asymptomatic. If they had not tested them, those individuals could have spread the virus to much of the population and staff.

“All Virginia DOC facilities are following the DOC’s pandemic sanitation plan, and offenders and staff are required to wear appropriate PPE at all times, including medical-grade PPE, such as N-95 masks, when appropriate. Virginia Correctional Enterprises manufactures both utility face masks and cleaning supplies approved by the EPA for use in combating the coronavirus, so there is no shortage of either in the facilities,” said DOC officials.   

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