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Wyatt inmate tests positive for COVID-19, prison on lockdown



“On the morning of April 21, 2020, the Facility learned that one of its United States Marshals Service detainees tested positive for COVID-19.

In its daily report to United States District Court Judge John McConnell Jr, the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, Rhode Island reported that an unidentified inmate has tested positive for COVID-19. The inmate is not one of the 79 undocumented immigrant detainees currently held at the facility under its contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but one of the 490 inmates held under the Wyatt’s contract with the United States Marshall Service (USMS).

On the last page of the daily report, the Wyatt informs Judge McConnell as follows:

“On the morning of April 21, 2020, the Facility learned that one of its United States Marshals Service detainees tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to the steps listed in paragraphs 6-8 of Attachment A, the Facility is currently on lockdown and is conducting contact tracing to determine further action in consultation with its medical staff and the Rhode Island Department of Health.”

The Wyatt has developed protocols in place for dealing with COVID-19, says the report.

  • Isolate the detainee in the medical isolation/negative pressure unit,2 give the detainee a mask to wear, and further medically evaluate the detainee;
  • Interview the detainee to determine the nature and extent of their symptoms, the date of their onset, who they recently came into close contact with (i.e., contact tracing, as defined by the CDC), what areas they may have touched, and other a specific facts to assess the detainee’s condition and their potential impact on staff and other detainees within the Facility
  • Clean and sanitize any areas identified as part of this interview that need to be addressed;
  • Interview other detainees who were identified during the contact tracing process;
  • Secure and isolate the detainee’s unit and limit access by staff to those staff necessary and with appropriate protections (masks, gloves, etc.), inform other detainees in the affected unit of the positive case, instruct them to wear masks when outside their cells, remind them to report any symptoms immediately, remind them of the importance of personal hygiene and social distancing, and medically screen them twice per day;
  • Order a COVID-19 test for any detainee who presents with symptoms necessitating such a test;
  • Notify all necessary parties and agencies, including, but not limited to, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Facility’s staff, and its user agencies.

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Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.