Health department, DOC collaborate to manage Deerfield COVID-19 outbreak

A picture of the assisted living ward at Deerfield Correctional Center that the Virginia...
A picture of the assisted living ward at Deerfield Correctional Center that the Virginia Department of Corrections shared with lawmakers in 2019. The prison, which houses some of the state's most medically fragile inmates, has seen a major COVID-19 outbreak.(Virginia Department of Corrections)
Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 at 3:04 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Health and Department of Corrections are working together to manage the COVID-19 outbreak at Deerfield Correctional Center, which is home to the state’s largest cohort of geriatric male inmates.

Officials said many of the inmates have serious health conditions and live in assisted living or nursing home environments, so VADOC is handling the outbreak at the center following the CDC and state health guidelines for nursing homes.

“The department’s pandemic response plan consists of more than 900 pages of documents addressing every situation we have faced during this pandemic,” said VADOC Director Harold Clarke. “We responded to the outbreak at Deerfield with months of knowledge and best practices that we’ve developed since the beginning of the pandemic. As we’ve witnessed in nursing homes everywhere, the offender population at Deerfield is unfortunately more vulnerable to the coronavirus.”

On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 605 inmates and 232 staff members at the center were tested for the virus. Officials said these were all people who had not tested positive in the three months prior.

A testing team returned on Sept. 14 and tested inmates in three housing units, including the assisted living quarters and the infirmary.

On Sept. 16, the VDH and Virginia National Guard conducted prevalence testing on 445 inmates and 183 staff members. Clinical testing of symptomatic patients and entire housing units was also conducted. Weekly testing of the infirmary and assisted living staff also started per VDH nursing home testing guidelines.

“The Western Tidewater Health District has been very involved with the situation at Deerfield Correctional Center,” said Dr. Todd Wagner, VDH Health Director for the Western Tidewater Health District. “Since the first cases manifested in April, our emergency management and epidemiology staff have remained in contact with the facility to provide mitigation strategies and support as requested. During the most recent outbreak of COVID-19 at Deerfield, our staff coordinated the delivery of critical clinical supplies and personal protective equipment for the staff at Deerfield.”

The facility has experienced the highest number of cases and deaths among VADOC facilities in the state. As of Sept 23, the center was reporting a total of 462 cases on site, 22 in the hospital and 10 deaths of inmates.

The facility released the following actions it has taken to help mitigate the spread:

  • VADOC Health Services Unit and Armor Correctional Health - the healthcare provider for DFCC - increased staffing to monitor and care for patients. Additional physicians, nurse practitioners, nursing leadership and other support staff are on-site. Fourteen critical care nurses, fourteen correctional nurses and seven nursing assistants were recently hired to support existing staff. Ambulance services are on site seven days a week.
  • Additional security staff have been sent to DFCC to support operations.
  • A mobile kitchen and additional food service staff were deployed to assist with meal preparation.
  • On top of daily sanitation routines, the Enhanced Sanitation Team performed extensive cleanings at DFCC twice during the month of September with another extensive cleaning scheduled to take place before the end of the month.
  • A mobile shower unit is on-site for use by offenders in areas of the facility used for isolation.
  • Offenders at DFCC have received more than 25,000 bars of soap since mid-March and hand sanitizer stations are available in the infirmary and assisted living quarters.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is readily available for offenders and staff at DFCC. To date, nearly 4,800 sneeze guards have been issued along with more than 3,100 surgical masks. Both are available for replacement upon request. More than 1150 KN/N95 masks have been distributed to DFCC.
  • All medical staff are wearing N95 masks and all kitchen staff are wearing KN95 masks.
  • VADOC ensures consistent monitoring of inmates and staff for PPE and sanitation compliance.

Officials said VADOC medical directors and leadership staff in the Health Services Unit conduct daily calls with Armor Correctional Heath Services and VDH officials about the COVID-19 response at the center.

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