A COVID-19 outbreak at Red Deer Remand Centre has been declared after 21 inmates and three staff tested positive this week.
“Isolation and monitoring of the positive cases is underway as per public health direction,” said Alberta Health Services in an email.
Inmates who have tested positive have been quarantined.
“All inmates and staff have been tested for COVID-19. Contact tracing for anyone potentially exposed to these individuals is ongoing.”
All report only mild symptoms, if any at all, says AHS. Mental health supports are provided for both staff and inmates and all inmates are offered COVID-19 vaccine.
The outbreak declared on Monday shows how quickly the virus can spread in a confined setting. Last Wednesday, the remand centre reported it had no active COVID cases. Prior to the latest outbreak, the facility, which has room for 146 inmates overseen by about 70 staff, had 50 cases during the pandemic, all of whom have recovered.
AHS says the facility is on outbreak status and all inmates are cohorted together within their units and kept separate from others to prevent further transmission.
“Inmates continue to be released on their court mandated dates, and are advised by AHS staff to follow public health and safety protocols, including isolating at home if they are COVID-19 positive.”
Infection prevention and control measures are in place including enhanced cleaning and PPE protection, says AHS.
Staff undergo COVID-19 symptom screening prior to each shift. Inmates are monitored and assessed at minimum, twice daily by AHS staff.
Prisoners were not being transferred to provincial court on Tuesday because of the outbreak.
Defence lawyer Patty MacNaughton was in court to represent Kenton Charles Butters, 32, who is facing about 20 charges in connection with a series of police chases around central Alberta last August.
RCMP alleged that during one of the chases Butters fired at and struck a police dog unit vehicle that was following him and an accomplice as they fled in a stolen vehicle.
MacNaughton told the judge her client could not appear because of a “large outbreak” at the remand centre, where a lockdown was expected to last at least seven days. The judge adjourned the case until June 9.
An inmate at the federal medium- and minimim-security Bowden Institution died from COVID complications last week. The prison, which can house up to 470 medium-security inmates and 130 minimum security inmates has recorded 37 COVID cases since the pandemic began. There are four active cases and 32 have recovered.