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COVID-19 at Wyatt has doubled in latest report



“…Before this week, we had a total of 15 detainees who tested positive and 7 of them had fully recovered and tested negative. This week, we received notice from RIDOH that 22 additional detainees have tested positive…”

The Wyatt Detention Facility today reported a total of 38 cases of COVID-19 at the prison, with seven cases “cleared.” They also reported 10 cases of COVID-19 among Wyatt staff. This is up more than double the report from just three days ago, when only 15 inmates and six members of the Wyatt staff were known to have tested positive.

Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, spoke about the Wyatt during Governor Gina Raimondo‘s daily COVID-19 press conference. The report from the Wyatt was released after she spoke to reporters. Interestingly, Michael Bilow, reporter for Motif Magazine, noted what was possibly a exponential curve in cases of COVID-19 at the Wyatt, again, before the report was released today.

The Wyatt released a statement with their latest report. Here it is in full:

“Beginning in February, when it was becoming clear that the coronavirus could become a real threat, the Wyatt Detention Facility reviewed our Pandemic Plan and implemented a series of procedures to mitigate the virus’ spread. These measures have included:

  • Working daily with the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) regarding the facility’s plan and strategies for mitigating the disease in our facility.
  • Reporting bi-weekly to the Rhode Island federal court regarding our current numbers of tested, positive, and negative staff and detainees as well as the specific measures that the facility is undertaking in response to the pandemic.
  • Conducting baseline and follow-up screenings of all detainees for virus-related symptoms, including COVID-19 testing and a 16-day quarantine for all new detainees.
  • Creating a quarantine unit and rapidly converting 160 of our housing units into negative pressure environments and continuing efforts to convert additional units to negative pressure.
  • Conducting extensive COVID-19 testing with both existing detainees and staff in consultation with RIDOH.
  • Providing all detainees with weekly personal hygiene and personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks, and soap.
  • Obtaining substantial amounts of hand sanitizer for detainees and staff.
  • Working with our federal partner agencies to reduce population to facilitate social distancing.
  • Directing detainees to socially distance themselves as much as possible and adjusting the facility’s procedures and schedules to maximize social distancing.
  • Advising all staff to stay home if they are experiencing any symptoms related to the coronavirus.
  • Training all staff on social distancing, hand washing, and sanitization guidelines.
  • Implementing a heightened sanitation plan across the facility, which includes a bleach-based daily cleaning routine.
  • Minimizing and screening outside contractors working at the facility to only those necessary to maintain critical operations.
  • Suspending the dental program.
  • Increasing the use of our video court system.
  • Suspending all detainee visitations with families and friends.
  • Providing free phone calls and mail envelopes so detainees can have an open line of communication with their families, as physical visitation are currently suspended.

“Despite our best efforts, on April 21st, a detainee tested positive for COVID-19 and was promptly placed in medical isolation. Before this week, we had a total of 15 detainees who tested positive and 7 of them had fully recovered and tested negative. This week, we received notice from RIDOH that 22 additional detainees have tested positive. Given that the Wyatt is a congregate setting much like nursing homes and hospitals and the coronavirus spreads easily as a respiratory-based illness, we and RIDOH anticipated that we would have additional cases and are fully prepared to respond to these cases.

“We deeply appreciate the valuable and professional guidance that the RIDOH team provides us on a daily basis. Their responsiveness, professionalism, and dedication to the task are often unseen by the public, but we see it every day when we interact with them. RIDOH recently offered the expertise of the Rhode Island Congregate Settings Support Team (CSST), which is a highly-specialized team with infectious disease expertise. The Wyatt is now working with the CSST to augment our testing capacity with a goal of testing all detainees within the next several days.

“Our dedicated Board of Directors continues to publicly meet via Zoom to ensure that the facility has all the tools and resources it needs to fight this disease. We have responded and will continue to respond to this pandemic and protect our detainees, our dedicated correctional officers and staff by using the best available protocols in close consultation with the RIDOH and our federal partner agencies.”

About the Author

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.

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