2.1 percent of the NC prison population tests positive for COVID-19

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Prison (Photo: WNCN)

RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — After six weeks of testing all offenders in state prisons in North Carolina, the results show 2.1 percent were positive for COVID-19.

Of the 29,062 offenders who were tested during mass testing, a total of 619 tested positive. According to a news release from the NC Department of Public Safety, this percentage of 2.1 percent is much lower than in prison systems in other states.

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“Our staff have worked tirelessly to prevent the virus from getting into our prisons, to contain it when it does get into a facility and to reduce its spread to other prisons,” said Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. “These numbers confirm their hard work is paying off and reflect our ongoing commitment to the safety of all North Carolina prisons.”

The mass testing of the prison population began on June 22, at a cost of around $3.3 million. COVID-19 tests were administered by Prisons Health Services staff as well as the North Carolina National Guard and were analyzed by LabCorp.

The entire current prison population now has been tested for COVID-19.

In addition to the 29,000 offenders tested in the mass testing operation, an additional 1,600 offenders were tested for the virus on their transfer from county jails to prison over the past two months.

Another 600 offenders had previously tested positive, recovered and did not need to be retested under Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) guidance.

Offenders who tested positive were placed in medical isolation to mitigate viral transmission. Offenders in housing units where others tested positive were placed under medical quarantine for close observation and twice daily temperature checks. Any offender who subsequently revealed symptoms of the virus was moved into medical isolation and retested.

The vast majority of offenders in the state prison system who tested positive for COVID-19 since the first case emerged four months ago, on April 1, are now presumed to have recovered.

Of the 1,459 offenders who tested positive during the course of this pandemic, 1,210 have met CDC and NCDHHS criteria to be released from medical isolation.

Prisons will continue to test all new offenders for COVID-19 when they arrive at prison diagnostic facilities from the county jails.

In 24 prison facilities, no offenders tested positive for the virus during mass testing.