Haynesville Correctional Center has more coronavirus cases than any other Virginia prison, and the number is steadily rising. As of Monday, there were 107 inmate infections and five confirmed employee cases.
Only one inmate was reported to be in the hospital. The majority never leave the facility and are treated in the prison’s infirmary.
The Department of Corrections’ medical professionals are working around the clock to provide care to offenders, said Lisa Kinney, director of communications for Virginia Department of Corrections.
Those doctors and nurses are providing three levels of coronavirus care, with separate areas for those with COVID-19 symptoms, those with active COVID-19 cases, and those recovering from COVID-19, she added.
Haynesville, like all DOC facilities, is working hand-in-hand with the Department of Health. The facility is following CDC guidelines for corrections, and the DOC has an “extensive” Pandemic Response Plan, said Kinney.
Under that plan, offenders and staff are required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment at all times, including medical-grade PPE, such as N-95 masks, when appropriate. Virginia Correctional Enterprises manufactures both utility face masks and cleaning supplies approved by the EPA for use in combating the coronavirus, and therefore, the facility is not experiencing any shortages in those areas, she confirmed.
The DOC’s medical staff has also responded to the pandemic in a myriad of ways designed to keep offenders healthy and to keep COVID-19 from spreading. Just a few examples, notes Kinney, are the hiring of additional nurses and changing the rules to allow offenders to keep some medications themselves so that they don’t have to stand in a pill line.
But despite the efforts at Haynesville, where inmates live in dormitory-style housing, the number of coronavirus cases is rising fast.
At the beginning of April, no known cases were reported at the facility. On April 15, Kinney confirmed there were four cases at Haynesville, and now it is the only facility in state with cases numbers in the triple digits.
VADOC did not directly respond to questions regarding whether this rapid increase is solely the result of more testing or if there’s an increase in symptomatic individuals.
But last week, the VADOC assistant director of health services, Dr. Trey Fuller, issued a statement saying they were working with VDH, UVA and VCU to test all symptomatic and asymptomatic offenders so that they could monitor and treat positive cases sooner rather than after they developed symptoms.
“Just as happens in the community when testing is increased, this increased testing at Haynesville Correctional Center has led to an increase in the known number of COVID-19 cases. Identifying all these positive offenders helps us tremendously in halting the spread of the virus,” he said.
Richmond County is monitoring the situation at Haynesville. To-date, its Emergency Medical Services team has responded to six calls for COVID-19 related illnesses, which is in line with the monthly average during normal conditions.
EMS is currently “well stocked with the appropriate PPE needed to address COVID-19 cases,” said county administrator Morgan Quicke.
Thus far, the county has received $15,000 from the CARES Act for EMS to help with purchasing and other expenditures related to COVID-19. And fortunately Richmond County is in the position financially to be able to expend funds for equipment, such as PPE upfront, and then receive the reimbursement on the back end, said Quicke.
On the back end, coronavirus expenditures will be covered under the Public Assistance grant offered through FEMA. The coverage will include any money spent serving patients at Haynesville and the Northern Neck Regional Jail, which currently does not have any known cases.
The county is diligently tracking and logging those expenses to ensure that at some point in the future we will receive that reimbursement funding, said Quicke.