Nineteen corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Drumheller Institution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Nineteen corrections officers have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Drumheller Institution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

38 Drumheller prison staff test positive for COVID-19

Some of the staff attended a private gathering earlier in the month

Thirty-eight staff members at the federal prison in Drumheller have tested positive for COVID-19, says the Correctional Service of Canada.

No inmates have tested positive so far, says the Correctional Service in a Monday email. Drumheller can hold up to 582 medium-security inmates and 122 minimum-security inmates. As of Dec. 23, 184 inmates had tested positive during the pandemic and all have recovered.

Mass asymptomatic testing is being offered to inmates and contact tracing is underway. As of Dec. 20, 84.6 per cent of inmates had been fully vaccinated.

Some of the staff who tested positive had attended a staff gathering earlier in the month.

“We take this situation seriously,” said Correctional Service spokesperson Kelly Sumeraj. “This was a private event and we are looking into it further, including all of the circumstances.

“As an organization, everyone’s health and safety is a top priority and we want to ensure that we prevent any spread of COVID-19, especially as case counts continue to rise in communities across Canada.

“The institutional routine at Drumheller Institution has not been impacted as a result of the current outbreak amongst staff. In-person visits to the institution have been cancelled due to elevated rates of COVID-19 transmission in the community. We do not have a date for when in-person visits will resume.”

As of Monday, there were no positive inmate cases at Bowden Institution and visitation is still allowed. Since Dec. 23, 37 Bowden Institution inmates have tested positive. One died and 36 have recovered.

Since the pandemic began, federal prisons have undertaken a range of safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including mask wearing, additional cleaning, hand washing and sanitizing and physical distancing. Screening is in place for those entering a federal institution and vaccinations are mandatory for all public service employees.