Third inmate tests positive for COVID-19 at Edmonton Remand Centre

Third inmate tests positive for COVID-19 at Edmonton Remand Centre

A third inmate who was released Monday from the Edmonton Remand Centre has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has confirmed to CBC News that the positive case was identified on Aug. 3 after the person was released.

The inmate was admitted four days earlier on July 30 and showed no symptoms at the time, health officials said. As per protocol, the prisoner was swabbed, placed into quarantine and checked daily, AHS wrote in an email.

“All contacts in the quarantine cohort are being swabbed for COVID-19,” AHS said. “The patient was released on August 3. Public health was notified and the patient was provided full PPE and instructions to self-isolate. Public health has initiated contact tracing.”

All admissions each day are housed in one unit for 14 days, AHS said. When inmates are let out of their cells, they are in small cohorts where physical distancing can be maintained. When distancing cannot be maintained, PPE is provided.

AHS said all staff working on the unit are now restricted from working on other units until further notice from the medical officer of health.

“This case shows our public health protocols are working, responding quickly as soon as a case is identified,” the health department said.

It’s the second case in a week where an inmate has been diagnosed after being released.

On July 29, health officials identified another positive case involving a patient who had been released two days earlier. Similarly, the inmate showed no signs of illness on July 24 when arriving and health officials followed the same procedures to contain the virus.

An inmate also tested positive at the ERC on July 15.

As of July 30, a total of eight cases had been reported at provincial facilities across Alberta. A total of 4,957 swab tests were conducted between March 15 and July 30.

The department is excepted to update the case numbers at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Last month, a group of lawyers warned that ongoing violations of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Alberta jails was putting inmates and staff at high risk.

A letter sent to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw last month cited a June court ruling that granted a bail review in part due to what the judge considered unsatisfactory compliance at the ERC with provincial protocols to curb COVID-19.

Tom Engel, the lawyer who represented the accused, said the case revealed that there is no audit or compliance mechanism in place to ensure guidelines were being followed in jails.

On Tuesday, AHS said prevention protocols are in place at all correctional facilities, both for staff and for inmates.

Protocols include isolating patients as required, providing staff with appropriate personal protective equipment, assessing inmates for exposure and symptoms at minimum once per day and assessing and swabbing inmates when they arrive, AHS said.

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