The region’s top doctor is conceding that it’s very difficult to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre.
The comments come as the Middlesex London Health Unit confirms 42 positive cases at the facility; 25 among staff, and 17 among inmates.
On the plus side, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie says so far none of the COVID-19 variants has entered the facility.
“We did get results back from the variants concern testing and no positives from that facility. So this is the regular strain of COVID and not the variant kind.”
London defence lawyer Kevin Egan, who represents a number of clients at the facility, told CTV News he’s not surprised the outbreak is getting worse.
“This is a facility built for 150, and even during this COVID pandemic, the population is more than double that. And so we’ve got people sharing signs that are originally designed to hold just one person, and there’s two or three people in that cell.”
The outbreak was declared on Jan. 18 after four corrections employees tested positive. At that time, none of the inmates had tested positive.
“The positive is it’s a relative young population, so the risk is generally lower,” says Dr. Mackie. “Second, it’s certainly on the inmate cases, this is a situation where they are compliant. So risk of spread beyond the facility is mitigated.”
As of now, those in congregate settings, like provincial jails, are not expected to get the vaccine until the second phase of the vaccination rollout.
Egan says he continues to field calls of concern from family members of inmates at the London facility.
“I’m worried not just about the prisoners, but about the correctional officers. The system is quite outdated. It’s got a closed ventilation system. And as we know, this virus is spread through the air. So it’s approaching a crisis.”
In the meantime, Dr. Mackie says he expects case counts to rise at EMDC.