North Carolina women’s prison reports alarming surge in coronavirus cases


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The coronavirus pandemic continues to make headlines as more and more vulnerable people are affected by the virus. Amongst the high risk categories, inmates are in a particularly difficult situation. Confined in spaces where practicing social distancing is virtually impossible and where living conditions are below normal standards, prisoners are more exposed to the COVID-19 threat than other groups.

US prisons and jails are trying hard to fight the outbreak, but their powers are limited. Yet another correctional facility has been greatly impacted by the spread of the virus. We’re talking about the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh. 70 cases of infection with the novel coronavirus were confirmed on Monday morning at the facility also referred to as the “Canary Unit.”

The numbers are truly concerning as last week there were only a dozen cases reported. N.C. Department of Public Safety informs that during the weekend over 160 tests were performed at the minimum-security prison, and while some tests came out as positive, nearly 100 inmates were declared virus-free.

In phone interviews last week, before any mass testing had been performed, some inmates at NCCIW confessed they were living in fear, unable to protect themselves against the virus since the beds in their cells were placed close together, so social distancing was out of the question. The situation is just the same as in most US prisons, and prisoner’s families and friends are growing more concerned about their safety. If you are worried about an inmate and want to get in touch with him, but you have little information about his whereabouts, an online lookup service can help you find the inmate’s location.

Officials are reassuring everyone that they are taking measures to slow down the spread of the virus inside the correction facility. Some of these measures include:

  • Separating healthy inmates from those who have tested positive
  • Transferring the inmates who are positive into two separate dorms
  • Placing inmates who have tested negative under quarantine for 14 days, while constantly supervising their health
  • Making sure that staff members don’t go back and forth between the dorms in which inmates are separated
  • Using a power breezer to sanitize large areas of the facility

But NCCIW is not the first state prison to struggle with a major outbreak. Neuse Correctional Institution situated in Goldsboro has confirmed more than 490 coronavirus cases. Authorities have decided to test every single one of the nearly 770 inmates imprisoned at NCI.

At state level, North Carolina has over 550 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, but that number doesn’t quite reflect reality because most state prisons haven’t even started testing their inmates. The figures could drastically change once mass testing begins. Until then, prison officials rely on the safety measures that have been implemented to keep things under control, but just how effective they will be remains to be seen.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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