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Correctional officer tests positive for COVID-19 at Wyatt

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“They have a plan in place to isolate patients who are ill and to prevent transmission…”


One correctional officer has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Wyatt Detention Facility. This is in addition to eight Wyatt detainees who have tested positive for the disease.

This information comes from reports ordered by United States District Court Chief Judge John McConnell Jr, and are filed every Monday and Thursday concerning the incidence of infection of COVID-19 at Wyatt and the measures undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at Wyatt.

Update from Katie Mulvaney of the Providence Journal: First inmate to test positive for coronavirus at Wyatt says prison disregarded his complaints of illness

The Wyatt has been the subject of much controversy since it began housing detainees under a new contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Recently the courts ordered the Wyatt to release three prisoners because Judges have found that the prison is not a safe environment for people who have severe health issues or who are facing minor charges.

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Since before COVID-19 was first found in the prison the Wyatt has been working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of RIDOH, described what this close relationship consists of in answer to a question from Michael Bilow of Motif Magazine during one of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s daily press briefings.

“The Wyatt detention center did have their first case earlier this week,” said Dr Alexander-Scott. “They have a group of cases now between five and 10 and our state epidemiologist has been in touch with the medical director at the facility every day since that first case was identified. They have a plan in place to isolate patients who are ill and to prevent transmission. They also have a negative room unit which is a space used in hospitals and medical centers to prevent cross contamination from room to room and there are challenges associated with moving patients in a correctional facility, but facilities have plans in place to manage difficult medical situations like this. We are testing the staff in the facility and we’re actively supporting the facility in their management in this situation.”

According to Wikipedia, negative room pressure “is an isolation technique used in hospitals and medical centers to prevent cross-contamination from room to room.It includes a ventilation that generates “negative pressure” (pressure lower than of the surroundings) to allow air to flow into the isolation room but not escape from the room, as air will naturally flow from areas with higher pressure to areas with lower pressure, thereby preventing contaminated air from escaping the room. This technique is used to isolate patients with airborne contagious diseases…”

Previous to the pandemic the Wyatt had only two negatively pressured medical isolation units, but the prison just completed work on converting Pod J-1, a separate and smaller unit within the facility that can house 48 detainees into a negative pressure area. Pod J-1 serves as an initial intake holding pod to assess and clear detainees before releasing them into the general population.