More than 30 COVID-19 cases at Manitoba jail as outbreak nearly triples

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases within the Headingley Correctional Centre is spiking after it nearly tripled in the past three days.

The province told CTV News the outbreak at the centre has grown, with 18 new cases identified as of Wednesday.

This brings the total number of cases within the centre to 32, including three staff members and 29 inmates.

This is nearly triple the number of cases reported on Monday – when the outbreak was only 11 cases, including nine inmates and two staff members.

The province declared an outbreak at the correctional centre on October 13 after seven inmates and two staff tested positive. The centre was moved to the critical or red level on the pandemic response system.

“Corrections had been making every effort to contain the spread of the virus and ensure the facility is safe,” a provincial spokesperson said.

“All staff and inmates who may have been exposed have been placed in quarantine.”

They said 200 inmates at Headingley are now in self-isolation, though this number changes daily as case investigations continue.

UNION SAYS PROVINCE SHOULD HAVE BEEN READY FOR AN OUTBREAK

The spike in cases has not come as a surprise to Michelle Gawronsky, the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, the union that represents correctional officers in the province.

Headingley is the first correctional centre to have a reported COVID outbreak since the pandemic first hit Manitoba. Gawronsky said the province should have been ready for an outbreak.

“It is disappointing this government has had eight months to prepare and get ready for this and to ensure that equipment was ready and able and that out officers would not be put at risk,” said Gawronsky.

“It is disappointing to know that the government was not proactive in ensuring a very locked down facility such as a correctional institute in our province was not prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

MORE PPE AND CONTACT TRACING NEEDED INSIDE JAILS: UNION

The province said Public Health and correctional nurses are monitoring the inmates daily, and offer them testing if any show symptoms. The province has also suspended all visits and inmate transfers into the centre.

The spokesperson said those inmates needing to self-isolate have separate living locations, movement within the jail has been restricted, and cleaning has been increased.

They said staff and inmates have also been given personal protective equipment, though Gawronsky said some staff are using cloth masks as they don't have medical masks.

“We are requesting that management ensure that all of the correctional officers always have medical PPE with any interaction with any of the inmates within any of the jails across the province,” Gawronsky said.

She said the union is calling for the province to provide medical masks, gloves, and gowns to correctional officers, as well as ensuring proper and timely contact tracing be done within the centres.

COVID CASES LOW IN OTHER MANITOBA JAILS

The province said two cases of COVID-19 have been identified at the Milner Ridge Correctional Centre, along with one case at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, the Brandon Correctional Centre, and the Manitoba Youth Centre. All these cases are among staff members.

According to Correctional Services Canada, there have been no positive cases identified within the Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba as of Wednesday.