A new COVID-19 treatment center at James Vaughn Prison near Smyrna

A new COVID-19 treatment center at James Vaughn Prison near Smyrna

After six weeks without a positive case, the Delaware Department of Correction said it's taking "aggressive measures" to combat a cluster of novel coronavirus COVID-19 cases among the inmates at Sussex Correctional Institution. 

Officials said they identified the three cases on Friday, July 3, 2020. Since then, 58 inmates have tested positive for the virus, including 48 asymptomatic carriers.

"The Delaware Department of Correction has demonstrated it can contain and treat COVID-19 in our correctional facilities, and we are taking all necessary measures to prevent further spread of the illness at Sussex Correctional Institution," Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said. "We are employing all of the tools at our disposal to get ahead of its potential spread, including moving inmates with underlying health issues to other facilities, opening a COVID Treatment Center at SCI, and expanding testing of asymptomatic inmates and staff."

These were the first cases identified at SCI since the pandemic began, and officials said they began contact tracing to immediately identify, isolate, and test those who may have been exposed. Since, officials said they've taken the following steps:

  • All inmates in the housing units in which the COVID-positive inmates had been assigned were quarantined and began receiving twice daily temperature checks, screenings for symptoms and pulse oxygen level testing.
  • All SCI inmates were issued face masks.
  • In-person visitation at SCI was suspended as a precaution to protect inmates and staff from transmission of the illness.
  • Voluntary COVID-19 testing is being offered to all SCI staff in recognition that the greatest threat to correctional institutions remains transmission from the community.
  • Additional deep cleanings are being conducted, including decontamination of housing units with specialized fogging machines.
  • All programming is being temporarily suspended for one week in an effort to restrict movement across the facility. Inmates will continue to be provided recreation time, including in outside recreation areas.
  • SCI is not accepting any new commits on a temporary basis.
  • All SCI inmates, approximately 900 individuals, are being tested for the illness.

Of those identified, 51 had been transferred to the COVID-19 Treatment Center at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, four are in the infirmary, and three are at an area hospital receiving treatment.