New Brunswick

Another COVID-19 outbreak confirmed at Dorchester Penitentiary

Dorchester Penitentiary, where 137 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak earlier this year, is contending with another outbreak.

7 inmates in medium-security unit have tested positive so far, says Correctional Service of Canada

Two hands are seen holding jail bars.
COVID-19 testing of inmates and staff is ongoing at Dorchester Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada says. (Adobe Stock)

There is another COVID-19 outbreak at Dorchester Penitentiary.

Seven inmates in the medium-security unit have tested positive for COVID-19, either through a PCR lab test or rapid test, Correctional Service of Canada confirmed on Thursday afternoon.

The first case was confirmed on June 27, according to the service's website.

Media relations officials have not yet responded to questions sent Wednesday morning about how many employees have tested positive.

"We are closely monitoring the situation, and measures are in place to minimize spread of the virus within the institution," the correctional service said in a statement.

The medium-security unit can house up to 397 inmates.

An outbreak in the unit earlier this year lasted more than two months and resulted in 137 positive cases, according to the service's website.

The latest cases raise the total number of positive cases in that unit since the beginning of the pandemic to at least 204, the website shows.

The minimum-security unit, which has a rated capacity of 302 inmates, has had 58 cases, raising the prison's total inmate cases to 262.

New Brunswick's other federal prison, the maximum-security Atlantic Institution in Renous, which can house up to 331 inmates, has had 36 positive inmate cases to date.

'Evolving situation'

Officials have not yet responded to questions about the condition of the Dorchester inmates, where they're being held, or whether any of them require hospitalization.

Nor have they said if or how many employees are off isolating because they had close contact with a positive case.

COVID-19 testing is being offered to inmates as well as staff.

The number of active cases among inmates may change as more testing is conducted and laboratory-confirmed results become available, the correctional service advised.

Employees must perform rapid self-tests and attest to a negative result in order to prevent possible spread at the prison, it said.

"This is an evolving situation and we continue to apply and reinforce infection prevention and control measures … and adapt based on Public Health advice," the statement said.

A low-angle view of a large stone building with a green metal roof.
A total of 57.4 per cent of inmates in Dorchester Penitentiary's medium-security unit have received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Correctional Service of Canada website, while 70.1 per cent in the minimum-security unit have been boosted. (CBC News )

All staff are provided with personal protective equipment. including medical masks, respirators, and face shields, while all inmates are provided medical masks and "encouraged to wear them at all times when not in their cells."

"Enhanced" cleaning and disinfecting is ongoing and everyone entering the prison is screened for COVID.

"Decisions regarding access to the site as well as programs and services are made in consideration of Public Health advice," according to the statement.

All offenders at all federal prisons are being offered COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters.

Of the inmates at Dorchester's medium-security unit, 86.3 per cent have had at least one dose of a vaccine, 83.9 per cent have had two doses and 57.4 per cent have been boosted, the federal website indicates.

In the minimum-security unit, the one-dose rate is 93.1 per cent, the two-dose rate is 90.3 per cent and the booster rate is 70.1 per cent.

At Atlantic Institution, 80.5 per cent of inmates have had at least one shot, 78.7 per cent have had two and 54.6 per cent have received their booster.

Correctional Service Canada said it's committed to reducing the risks of COVID-19 in all its operations.

"We will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), local Public Health, as well as unions and stakeholders to take any further steps needed to ensure everyone's safety," it said.