A staffer at Monroe Correctional Complex has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Department of Corrections announced Friday.
The employee at the prison’s Washington State Reformatory Unit last worked March 8 and was tested on March 10. The test came back positive on Thursday, according to the DOC.
“We realize this news is concerning and we want to reassure you the employee, MCC leadership and human resources are working closely with our medical professionals,” DOC Secretary Steve Sinclair said in a message to employees Friday. “We hope you will join us in wishing them a speedy recovery.”
Sinclair’s message said the agency has notified other employees who were considered to be “close contacts” and would ask them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. He urged employees who display symptoms of the coronavirus, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, to contact their doctors and notify their DOC supervisors.
DOC had announced in a late Thursday news release that it was suspending visitations at all prisons, but did not mention the staff member’s infection.
The agency said it was halting the visitations while it worked out “enhanced screening protocols” for all employees and contract staff as well as incarcerated individuals and others entering DOC facilities. The extra screenings will include taking temperatures and screening questionnaires.
Inmates at the Monroe prison units where the employee worked have been placed into “precautionary quarantine/restricted movement” until the 14-day quarantine period for the employee ends, according to the DOC. Prison staff and unit porters also are stepping up cleaning and disinfection of the affected prison units, and inmates are being provided cleaning supplies for their cells, the DOC said.
Janelle Guthrie, a DOC spokeswoman, said there have been no reported cases of infection of any other employees, incarcerated individuals or people on community supervision. The department is following health protocols for people who are showing symptoms of possible illness and for those who have been in close contact with individuals with symptoms.
People incarcerated at the Monroe facility were notified of the infection Friday morning, according to an inmate who received the written notice. A second inmate also passed along an electronic message through a family member saying the affected units at the prison are on “lockdown.”
DOC’s medical care system for inmates has come under scrutiny and criticism amid reports of breakdowns in medical care for inmates that have led to injuries and deaths, as well as lawsuit payouts. The head doctor at the Monroe prison was fired last year after an internal review found inadequate medical care in the cases of six inmates, including three who died.
The MCC holds about 2,500 inmates and has close to 1,200 employees.