The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) announced this week that nearly 60% of men held in the state’s largest prison had received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and that nearly two-thirds of female offenders were fully vaccinated.
Statewide, more than 50% of inmates have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, nearly 60 percent of officers, medical and professional staff are vaccinated.
The steady increase in vaccinations comes as DOC completes the installation of state-of-the-art air quality improvement systems to combat COVID in all penitentiaries and community correctional centers across the state. The measures, supported by ongoing COVID-19 mitigation practices, have kept inmate COVID-19 cases in single digits for more than three months and are helping to advance the ministry’s gradual return to normal operations, officials said.
“Since early January, more than 3,400 inmates and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and we are on track to meet our vaccination targets,” Corrections Department Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said. “This strong emphasis on vaccinations and our investment in new ventilation technology that cures COVID-19 along with our ongoing comprehensive mitigation strategy has driven COVID-19 cases to the lowest levels in a year.
“Thanks to the dedication and hard work of our exceptional agents, staff and contract healthcare providers, there are encouraging signs that we are approaching the end of this very difficult public health epidemic.
By the third week of April, every detainee detained by DOC had been offered the COVID-19 vaccine. To date, 2,256 inmates – over 50 percent – have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine while in custody, including 1,748 inmates (41 percent) who are fully vaccinated. Additionally, 83% of DOC inmates at highest risk – those over the age of 60 – are vaccinated. Correctional staff continue to circulate in the inmate housing areas on an ongoing basis to provide information and vaccines to unvaccinated inmates.
The immunization effort is supported by a comprehensive awareness campaign within DOC facilities that includes printed educational material in Spanish and English, and an educational video series that features informational messages and testimonials from local leaders and nationals, doctors, community advocates and correctional officers. In addition, DOC facilitated in-person visits from community leaders and health professionals to provide in-person education and vaccine advocacy to the prison population. The DOC offers inmates several incentives to encourage vaccination, including good-time credits, special meals and gift bags for commissioners.
Baylor Women’s Correctional Facility leads state prisons for the percentage of female inmates vaccinated, at 63%, followed by the state’s largest prison, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, at 59%. Other prison and community correctional facilities have recorded inmate immunization rates of 43% to over 80%. The DOC has set a goal of vaccinating detainees of 80% by the end of June.
The DOC also recently completed a project to install state-of-the-art equipment to improve the air quality of the Eagle X Pro, which has been shown to remove 99% of pathogens and contaminants. , including a new adaptation to decontaminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In February, DOC became the first US correctional system to use this technology, starting with Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (HRYCI) in Wilmington.
Over the past week, 159 Eagle X Pro corona discharge units have been installed in the air supply ducts of HVAC systems in all prisons, labor release and probation violation establishments. HVAC systems are configured to circulate air continuously to ensure a continuous flow of its anti-virus ions in air-conditioned indoor spaces 24 hours a day.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 infection cases among inmates have remained single-digit for more than three consecutive months, since the first week of February. At the start of this week, only three inmates tested positive for COVID, none of whom were symptomatic. The majority of new COVID positive cases in recent months have been new arrivals who are remand inmates and not sentenced offenders, officials noted.
A total of 11,750 COVID-19 tests held by inmates have been administered over the past year, and as an additional protective measure upon their return to the community, the DOC has offered all inmates to voluntarily test for the antigen. COVID-19 as they prepare for their release. Of the 1,249 inmates who chose to have antigen tests since last December, 1,248 results were negative and only one was positive.
DOC continues to employ a variety of prevention, screening, clean-up and containment measures to guard against the introduction and spread of COVID-19, including:
- All inmates, officers, staff and correctional health personnel are offered COVID-19 vaccinations on site.
- Everyone, including officers, administrative staff, and probationers, who enter a Level V prison, a Level IV probation violation or labor release center, or a probation and parole office, is being examined for COVID-19, including a series of questions and a temperature check.
- Staff who show symptoms are sent home on self-quarantine and asked to contact their health care provider.
- Newly arrived detainees are held in solitary confinement for the first 14 days, during which time they are closely monitored, including daily temperature checks using a thermometer.
- Additional daily cleanings of DOC facilities are in progress.
- Masks are worn by correctional officers and contract health workers to protect inmates, officers and other staff.
- Face masks have been provided to all inmates in all level V prisons and level IV labor release and probation facilities statewide.
- Voluntary testing for COVID-19 is offered to all correctional and medical staff at every DOC facility.
Get updated information on DOC’s response to COVID-19 and read previous announcements of positive COVID-19 cases by visiting https://doc.delaware.gov.