An inmate from the newest and largest provincial prison – the 378-cell Okanagan Correctional Center in Oliver, which opened in late 2016 – tested positive for COVID-19.
The positive test was recorded at the end of the day on Wednesday April 1.
According to BC Corrections, the inmate who tested positive was isolated at the onset of symptoms and no one else in his unit showed signs of the illness.
Interior Health said its acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Sue Pollock, is confident that the risk of exposure to the general public is low.
“The patient is receiving proper care, with the necessary infection control precautions in place,” Interior Health said in a statement. “The individuals in detention who may have been exposed are all being watched; there is currently no sign of disease beyond the first patient. An investigation of any potential contact or source is underway. “
Visits to the Okanagan Correctional Center have been restricted since March 12, and any new inmate who entered the institution has been isolated for 14 days.
Interior Health said public health staff are working with BC Corrections and the Provincial Health Services Authority to identify anyone who may have been in contact with the inmate, adding that follow-up will be done to ensure they were symptomatic or not and that proper self-assessment isolation instructions are followed, if indicated.
Those who may have been in contact with the patient are contacted directly, said Interior Health, to make sure they are not symptomatic and that they have the resources to isolate themselves for 14 days after the last contact.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, said that measures have been taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the prison system in British Columbia.
“Correctional facilities have definitely been on the radar screen from the start,” she said, noting the measures put in place last month, including restricting visitors, carrying out frequent medical checks and putting in place compulsory isolation for prisoners with symptoms.
Henry also said that steps had been taken to ensure that prison officials had “quick access” to the tests.
“There are things we can do in these facilities to support this,” she said. “So far there are no other cases, but it takes time, as we know, after an exposure where people can develop this disease. … It’s always difficult in these closed environments. “
On Wednesday, BC Corrections confirmed to KTW that it has begun releasing non-violent inmates in order to reduce the prison population in the province in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus disease.
For more information on COVID-19, visit BC Center for Disease Control website.
Interior Health also updated information on COVID-19 Page on the Inner Health website.