Disinfectant fogging, medical screening used to combat COVID-19 at Saskatoon jail

Staff at the Saskatoon jail are worried about their access to protective gear as the number of workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 is now 5.

Officers concerned about access to protective gear

The number of people here on remand is an issue at the Saskatoon jail. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Cleaners are fogging parts of the inside of the Saskatoon Correctional Centre with an industrial disinfectant to try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It's the latest step to stem the spread of the virus in a facility that now has five confirmed cases, all involving staff members.

"At the moment we're just doing the common areas, the gym area," said Dennis Slobogian with Skyview Cleaning.

The disinfectant compound is branded Vital Oxide and is benign enough to humans that it can be applied without any personal protective gear, he said.

"It's a small machine that blows out a mist maybe two or three feet. You go up against the wall and you kind of wave it up and down, cover the whole area with it," he said.

"It gets into the nooks and crannies and covers the whole surface."

New offenders arriving at the men's jail also now undergo specific screening for COVID-19 by a nurse, says Noel Busse with the Ministry of Justice.

Busse said social distancing is difficult to maintain in a jail, especially when inmates are bunked two to a cell or spend time in a common area like a gymnasium.

The jail has suspended personal and professional visits by lawyers, friends and family of inmates.

Even with these measures, officers at the Saskatoon jail are apprehensive because the facility has a confined population and confirmed cases, says Bob Bymoen with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union.

"One of the bigger concerns we hear from corrections officers is the lack of personal protective equipment. Not enough of it," he said.

Staff do have access to gloves and masks. But Bymoen says it's not clear under what circumstances they should be used. He says it's also not clear whether it's an individual choice, or if someone orders it.

"That's all changing really fast," he said.

Busse said personal protective equipment is available to all correctional facility employees based on the level of risk associated with their duties, as recommended by public health authorities and occupational health and safety.

Busse says the government won't comment on whether the jail staff who tested positive were located in administrative offices or in a particular unit.

It also will not comment on whether the three new cases this week came from staff travelling, or whether the virus was picked up through community transmission.

The province does not believe the virus has spread into the jail's general population.

"We have no reason to believe these cases were spread within the correctional facility," Busse said. "However, public health's investigation is still ongoing."

Bymoen said he wouldn't speculate on whether he believes the virus has been transmitted from staff to the general population.


Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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