Mass COVID-19 testing of all offenders in state prison completed

North Carolina

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) State prison officials have completed COVID-19 tests of all offenders in state prisons and the results show 2.1 percent were positive for the virus in a six-week mass testing operation.

Of the 29,062 offenders who were tested during mass testing, a total of 619 tested positive.

This positivity percentage of 2.1 percent is much lower than in prison systems in other states.

The mass testing of the prison population began on June 22, at a cost of around $3.3 million. COVID-19 tests were administered by Prisons Health Services staff as well as the North Carolina National Guard and were analyzed by LabCorp.

The entire current prison population now has been tested for COVID-19.

In addition to the 29,000 offenders tested in the mass testing operation, an additional 1,600 offenders were tested for the virus on their transfer from county jails to prison over the past two months.

Another 600 offenders had previously tested positive, recovered and did not need to be retested under Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) guidance.

Offenders who tested positive were placed in medical isolation to mitigate viral transmission.

Offenders in housing units where others tested positive were placed under medical quarantine for close observation and twice daily temperature checks.

Any offender who subsequently revealed symptoms of the virus was moved into medical isolation and retested.

These protocols are consistent with guidance from the CDC and NCDHHS.

The vast majority of offenders in the state prison system who tested positive for COVID-19 since the first case emerged four months ago, on April 1, are now presumed to have recovered.

Of the 1,459 offenders who tested positive during the course of this pandemic, 1,210 have met CDC and NCDHHS criteria to be released from medical isolation.

Prisons will continue to test all new offenders for COVID-19 when they arrive at prison diagnostic facilities from the county jails.

Those offenders are placed in quarantine upon arrival and remain there until their test results are received.

Any who test positive are moved to medical isolation until they meet the criteria to be presumed recovered.

All offenders transferred within the prison system are tested prior to transfer or quarantined for 14 days on their arrival at a new facility.

In 24 prison facilities, no offenders tested positive for the virus during mass testing.

NCDHHS statistics show the COVID-19 positivity rates in North Carolina have averaged between 7 and 9 percent over the last month, which is higher than the 2.1 positivity rate found in North Carolina prisons during mass testing.

Other states that mass-tested their offender populations show the following COVID-19 positivity rates on their websites on Aug. 6:
•    New Jersey – 16.3 percent
•    Tennessee – 13.6 percent
•    Michigan –10.8 percent
•    Texas — 9.8 percent

The North Carolina Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, Prisons has taken more than four dozen actions to prevent COVID-19 from getting into the prisons.

Those actions, along with the current public information on the number of offenders who have tested positive for the virus statewide, can be found here: https://www.ncdps.gov/our-organization/adult-correction/prisons/prisons-info-covid-19  

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