Sixty cases at N.B.'s Dorchester Penitentiary; mass testing and isolation ongoing

It’s the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that COVID-19 has found its way into an Atlantic federal prison.

It’s been about one week since an outbreak at Dorchester Penitentiary was declared, and the latest round of mass testing has found 60 cases – 54 inmates and six staff – according to Correctional Service Canada.

Darcy LeBlanc, regional administrator of Communication and Executive Services, says wellness checks are being done at least once a day on inmates, and no one has needed emergent medical attention.

It is still unknown how the outbreak started.

“It couldn’t be our inmates. They’re not leaving daily – we are – but they haven’t been able, that I’m aware of, to pinpoint exactly how it did come in,” said LeBlanc.

She said when the pandemic began, inmates had been separated into cohorts, so the outbreak has been isolated to one area of the prison.

“When COVID-19 started, we trained almost 250 staff members to become contact tracers for us inside, dealing with the inmates and who had had contact with who and trying to isolate that information,” she said. “Public health though, has also been working with us in collaboration to do the contact tracing for our staff.”

It’s the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that COVID-19 has found its way into an Atlantic federal prison.

The Union of Canadian Correctional officers says their members have been provided with proper equipment, and the union successfully advocated to get the officers take home COVID-19 tests.

Rene Howe, Atlantic regional president for the Union of Canadian Correctional officers, says their members are concerned for their safety, but are still going to work. He says that shows their “integrity and dedication.”

“Our union officials have been working proactively to ensure the safest possible working conditions for our members and we are maintaining a high level of follow up with management on all the matters regarding the safety of our members and inmates,” Howe said.