Three inmates at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the V.I. Bureau of Corrections.
The infected inmates have been isolated from the rest of the facility’s population, are being monitored by nursing staff, and have not required hospitalization, the bureau said. Additionally, the Health Department has submitted samples for laboratory analysis to determine which strain of the COVID-19 virus caused the infections.
The outbreak comes as the territory battles a COVID-19 surge attributed to the more highly contagious Delta variant of the virus. As of Monday, there are 208 positive cases confirmed in the territory, with 36 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the most recent being a 56-year-old man on St. Croix.
The bureau said it first became aware of the problem on Tuesday when an inmate at Golden Grove – also known as the John Bell Adult Correctional Facility – tested positive for the virus after complaining of mild flu-like symptoms, according to a press release issued Wednesday afternoon.
Two more inmates who were housed in the same unit as the infected person have now also tested positive, the bureau said. It has tested all 79 detainees, 54 inmates and staff at the facility and is working with the Health Department to conduct contact tracing to confirm the root cause of the outbreak, according to the press release.
While 20 people tested positive for the virus in August 2020 at the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas, this is the first COVID-19 outbreak reported at Golden Grove since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The entire facility has been placed on lockdown, inmate movement has been restricted, and all visits by vendors and all inmate transfers have been suspended until further notice, the bureau said. In-person visits, work details, and prisoner furloughs have been suspended since the start of the pandemic. Court hearings held virtually remain unaffected, and attorneys may visit with prisoners via secure video conference by contacting the facility for an appointment, the bureau said.
The Bureau of Corrections has implemented mandatory temperature checks, pulse readings, hand sanitizer usage and continuous washing of hands at each of its facilities along with the more recent addition of a thermal screening monitoring system for anyone (staff, inmates and guests) coming into the facility, it said.
Additionally, all new inmates are quarantined for 14 days and must be cleared by medical staff before they can join the general population, the bureau said.
The bureau also said it has stockpiled sufficient personal protection equipment, such as N95 masks, face shields, gowns, gloves and Tyvek suits in preparation for any anticipated COVID-19 resurgence. In addition, it has on hand negative pressure isolation tents, which can be used to temporarily isolate any prisoner with an infectious disease, the press release stated. BOC has placed additional masks in the inmate housing areas and has ramped up cleaning and sanitation within the facility, it said
The bureau also has continued to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all inmates, regardless of age or underlying conditions, and reports that 29 inmates ranging in age from 20 to 66 have taken the Pfizer vaccine since the rollout began on Feb. 22.
“All medical and correctional staff are capable professionals who continuously work hard to ensure the safety, security and custody of all inmates,” Bureau of Corrections Director Wynnie Testamark said in the press release. “The risk of a COVID-19 outbreak or resurgence at a prison or jail increases whenever there is wide community spread of COVID-19 coupled with the movement of staff and prisoners in and out of a facility. The bureau has taken concrete steps to minimize the COVID-19 risk at its facilities, in accordance with CDC guidelines.”