MONTPELIER — State officials said five of the state’s six correctional facilities — including Northwest State Correctional Facility — are adhering to lockdown procedures due to positive cases of COVID-19.
The news comes two weeks after the St. Albans prison went into a temporary full lockdown after reporting two cases among staff at the facility.
Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, reported that positive COVID-19 diagnoses among staff prompted modified lockdowns at Northern State Correctional Facility (NSCF), Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), Northwest State Correctional Facility (NWSCF) and Southern State Correctional Facility (SSCF).
NWSCF reported one positive test, according to a press release from the state Department of Corrections. NSCF and CRCF each reported one postiive test, while SSCF reported two, according to the DOC.
Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility is currently on full lockdown due to the presumed positive case. The remaining five Vermont correctional facilities continue to remain on a modified lockdown status, which is the standard practice for all Vermont facilities.
“The bulk of the positives, the vast majority of the positives, are staff,” Smith said. “It is in all facilities, in terms of small numbers — one, two, that sort of numbers in all of our facilities except St. Johnsbury and ironically, Mississippi.”
Following the positive tests, the state initiated contact tracing with the Rapid Response Team. NWSCF incarcerated individuals and staff were tested on Thursday. All results from those tests are negative, according to the DOC.
MVRCF incarcerated individuals are tentatively scheduled to be tested on Jan. 11, pending test results from the presumed positive staff member.
Others identified as having close contact with the positive individuals are quarantining, according to the DOC.
Since March, authorities said there have officially been 38 positive COVID-19 diagnoses in correctional facilities across the state, and as such the Department of Health immediately took actions to implement contact tracing and testing for all facility staff.
Chittenden County Women’s Facility conducted testing for all incarcerated individuals and received all negative results, Smith said.
No incarcerated individuals are currently positive, according to the DOC. Staff are tested every two weeks, with three facilities tested weekly, in order to swiftly detect and mitigate the presence of COVID-19 in Vermont correctional facilities.
“In terms of incarcerated individuals, it’s very few ... It’s predominantly a lot less than the five or six or seven correctional officers that we’re talking about,” Smith said.
It has not been determined when or if inmates specifically will be vaccinated, Smith said, however Smith said vaccination would first and foremost depend on age group. Phase 1A of vaccinations includes emergency responders and health care professionals, while Phase 1B includes Vermonters age 75 or older, followed by each subsequent younger age group. Corrections staff will likewise be vaccinated by age group, according to Levine.
“If you’re 75-plus and incarcerated, you will be vaccinated,” Smith said.