By Kendall McGee | November 10, 2020 at 12:44 PM EST – Updated November 10 at 12:44 PM
TABOR CITY, N.C. (WECT) – Tabor Correctional Institute has the most active cases of the coronavirus among the state’s prisons as of this week.
The prison in Columbus County has a capacity of 1,752 male inmates and houses minimum and medium custody offenders.
DPS statistics show as of Monday afternoon, the Tabor City facility had 165 active cases and more than 1,900 cumulative COVID-19 tests. Columbus Correctional only has one active case of the virus, according to the DPS website.
All the prisons in North Carolina have a total of 393 active cases, meaning Tabor City’s prison outbreak accounts for more than 40 percent of active prison cases in the entire state.
Information from the Columbus County Health Department shows correctional facilities account for more than 70 percent of the new COVID-19 cases announced Monday. Health leaders in Columbus County confirm that of their 135 new cases, 95 can be attributed to correctional facilities in the county. The cases from Columbus Correctional and Tabor City Correctional must be included in the county’s total under state law.
According to DPS officials, the prison system as a whole has taken more than four dozen actions to prevent the virus from spreading to prisons. Statewide, the entire 31,000 offender population has been tested for COVID-19 at least once. Many have been tested twice or more.
“The Division of Prisons is working hard to protect the health and safety of the staff and the offenders, and this remains the top priority in this first-in-a-century pandemic of highly infectious respiratory virus,” DPS spokesperson John Bull wrote in an email.
Staff working inside the medical isolation areas are required to wear medical-grade PPE at all times. All staff and every offender has been issued six cloth masks each and are required to wear them. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray have been available throughout the facility for offenders and staff to access readily throughout the day.
Offenders are tested on arrival to prison from the jails. They are tested again if they have symptoms of the virus, if they may have been potentially exposed to someone who tested positive, and sometimes entire cohorts of offenders are tested for the virus.
Any offenders transferred into another prison go immediately on arrival into medical quarantine without contact with the general offender population.
All housing units at the prisons are separated into cohorts, kept in groups, to prevent the mixing of offenders in one housing unit from those in other housing units.
Offenders who test positive are immediately separated from the rest of the population and placed in medical isolation. The housing units where the COVID-19 positive offenders were housed are placed under a 14-day quarantine for observation. Any offender who shows symptoms of the virus is moved into medical isolation and tested for COVID-19.
DPS will not say whether an offender has been hospitalized or where, for security reasons, but as of Tuesday morning, just seven of the 31,000 offenders in the prison system are at an outside medical facility due to COVID-19.
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